Marriage and Divorce in Japan - Written by Yogi
Foreigners and also the Indians are growing in Japan. At this moment of writing this article there are around 40,000 Indians living in Japan and all the foreigners put together have reached approximately 2.9 million. With this increase in the non-Japanese population in Japan, the international marriages in Japan are also increasing. Such marriages can be of the sort, (1) foreigner marrying a foreigner in Japan or (2) a foreigner marrying a Japanese national in Japan. Japanese nationals also include those who have naturalized to take Japanese citizenship.
To begin with
In Arabia, there is a saying that marriage is like an uncut watermelon. You don’t know if the melon is going to be red or white, unless you cut it. Yes, marriages are like that, irrespective of domestic or international. Hence, the key things to make a marriage successful are (1) to understand the counterpart very well, before the marriage, through whatever possible modes and channels and (2) once married, give each other space and be considerate towards each other. This becomes much more important in international marriages as the two of you would have grown up in totally different cultures, traditions, ideologies, infrastructure and so on having totally different experiences and thus varying thoughts about life and expectations from your partner.
Finding a partner in Japan
As Japan has a very high language and culture barrier, usually a foreigner / Indian living in Japan looks for a Japanese language enabled partner. While non-Japanese community in Japan has reached the mark of 2.9 million as of date, even in the highly populous communities like the Chinese, it is not easy for a Chinese to find a Chinese partner in Japan. Its furthermore difficult for Indians to find a partner living and working in Japan, given the limited Indian population in Japan. Moreover, many Indians strongly believe in the arranged marriage system and hence leave Japan for getting married in India in line with their parent’s wish.
Two people can come together through various avenues such as (1) direct connect between the two, say at workplace or in private life that converts into a marriage (2) introduction by a friend or well-wisher that converts into a marriage (3) introduction by parents (or through a marriage agency in India) leading to an arranged marriage (4) goukon wherein a group of girls and boys have a lunch/dinner or an event together to choose the one who best suits him/her and (5) introduction by a marriage agency in Japan leading to the marriage.
The type (4) and (5) are not so popular in the non-Japanese community yet. This is because, most of the marriage agencies in Japan offer information and services only in Japanese language. Be aware that many fake agencies are just interested in minting money. On the contrary, there are also agencies that train you on various aspects of marriage and taking care of the partner for a successful marriage relation.
By the way, in Japan, if you date someone with an intention to understand that person, do not verbalize your intent to marry unless you really mean it. In the Japanese courts, even a verbal utterance of the word marriage could be regarded as a verbal contract and could land you in trouble.
At All-Japan Association of Indians (AJAI) we are deliberating on the need of a marriage matching function within the Indian community. Indian community in Japan is now sizeable enough and has reached the stage wherein Indians here are looking out for Indian partners living here. We also need to guide the couples on how to make marriages successful.
Every marriage has an ecosystem including parents, siblings, relatives, friends, coworkers, community connects and so on. This ecosystem is always worried about the success of the marriage and happiness of the couples, and extra worried when it comes to an international marriage, as there are too many unknowns.
International marriages do not have great impressions in the minds of people, as they would have heard stories of unsuccessful ones. And when people are conservative, traditional, protective, they are either too careful or against the international marriage.
When a couple decides to go for an international marriage, they need to analyze this ecosystem to take a step-by-step approach to convince all these stakeholders, at least the bare minimum, if not all. Honestly, if the couples are sensible and rational, I think they can decide a lot of things by themselves. Having said that, do not neglect the advice from the seniors. Listen to them or at least show as if you are listening to them.
Marriage ceremony is basically a one-time activity in life. Make it memorial one. Take photographs, videos that will be your life time assets even in thicker and thinner times. Many a times, these memories will keep you bonded.
I would suggest to have small ceremonies in the countries of each couple in their own traditional ways. Don’t make things too big unless you have heaps of wealth. Staying financially stable is a thumb rule in international marriages. You never know when you will need an unforeseen travel or so. The lifelong expenses of an internationally married couple are definitely higher than a domestic couple right from honeymoon, to household things, to child rearing and so on.
Documentation for marrying in Japan
When foreigners want to marry in Japan, it could be a case of (1) a foreigner marrying to his own national or (2) a foreigner marrying a Japanese national or (3) a foreigner marrying a different national. The documentation needs could be slightly different in each case.
First you need to get a proof of being single (including divorced or widowed) from your motherland, probably from the city office or marriage bureau in the city of your residence in your homeland. If they do not issue such certificate, an affidavit created by your parents, attested by the Notary public of the district concerned can work.
In case of Indians, the affidavit shall be made on a stamp paper of INR 50/100. Authorize the same at the home department of the concerned state (usually located in the Mantralaya / Secretariats) and then get the same to Japan. Now the Indian government also offers online authorization services through the following regional authentication centers (RACs).
Here in Japan, get the document authorized at your embassy/consulate in Japan. The document can now be submitted to the marriage bureau / city office in Japan. You may need a translation of the document in Japanese language which can be self-translated and self-attested. The city office / marriage bureau will register your marriage and offer you a marriage certificate in Japanese language. Marriage registration service is offered even on weekends and there is also a corner to take photograph.
Now you can solemnize your marriage at your embassy/consulate. In some countries, the embassy/consulate may require you to publish notices in the local and your home country newspapers. In such case the embassy will offer you the text that has to be published.
Charges for authorization services
- Apostille: Approximately USD 100 (JPY 10,000) per document.
- Notarization: Charges of stamp paper (revenue stamp) as required plus the charges of the notary.
- Attestation at the embassy: Differs from embassy to embassy. Indian Embassy in Tokyo charges JPY 3,200 (as of July 2021).
- Gazetted officers, elected assemblymen can do it even for free.
Fake international marriages
I have handled many cases of fake international marriages in Japan. Fake marriages are of multiple types.
- One side marries the other, with no intension of marriage but for other gains like money or property etc. Such people/groups are well versed about the legal framework with which they go on creating situations that will help them to rip off good money by exerting a lot of pressure on the other party and/or his/her family.
- One party is already married in overseas and still marries another person in Japan without disclosing the information about the previous marriage with the other party.
- One party is just interested in having a kid with the other party. And once a kid is born, the party abducts the kid and breaks all relations with the partner. The only way to prevent such fake marriage is to be careful when choosing your partner. You must not just rely on the information offered to you by the other party. Try to find as much possible information through various channels.
- Both parties indulge in a marriage for some kind of mutual benefit. I have seen cases in which Japanese girls marry non-Japanese boys. The girl gets around USD 20,000 whereas the boy gets a visa to enter Japan. Sometimes, such arrangements turn into a hell when either of the parties dishonor the contractual agreements.
Upbringing of double blood kids
The double kids are found to be with special genetic combinations, like very cute and so on. As of now, good number of double blood kids are taking part in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
As the mother and father would have been brought up in different environments, the basic ideas about the upbringing of the kid could be totally or partially different. Some cultures have loads of rituals to be done with the baby whereas some modern cultures may not have any. Hence, there could be debate about right or wrongness of the rituals. In international marriages you will have to take the middle way. Things will be difficult if you try to lean towards one way of thinking.
Kid’s education could be a matter of debate as one parent could be conservative and other could be liberal. Say for example, in India, still many people believe that only Engineering or medical studies are the key to a stable livelihood. As the ultimate goal is the success and happiness of the kid, I would suggest you to look well at your kid to understand his/her inclinations. You need to be objective.
Mind you, double blood kids can find themselves in a cultural or traditional dilemma. Help them for not going into the identity crisis. It would be very tough on the. At school, such kids can undergo discrimination or abuse. So, always keep your antenna on. Stay connected with your kid through daily communication.
The details for schooling and higher education are covered in a distinct article on the subject. Please refer to that article if you need more information.
Household issues and separation/divorce
If an Indian couple is living in India, the two are supported by an ecosystem of parents, grandparents and friends and so on. If they have an issue, they can depend on somebody from this ecosystem, to resolve the issue. However, if the couple moves to overseas, the ecosystem becomes week resulting into higher possibility of household issues. The issues could be (1) verbal abuse (2) physical abuse (3) mental abuse (4) indirect abuse of either the partner or the kids.
In Japan salaries of the IT engineers is high. One very clear issue I am seeing in the community is about the ignorance of the head of the household, usually the husband, towards the family or the reality of life, under the ego of the high income. They start feeling as if they are the boss. This must be stopped.
In case a spouse or a kid is abused in the house, they can reach out to the city office, especially the Child Guidance Center (CGC). Depending on the case, the CGC will offer temporary stay for the kid or/and the spouse. However, let me warn you that, once you go to the CGC/City office, whether you like it or not, they will take actions only as per their rule book. There is no place for emotions in their operations. I have seen cases in which CGC kept the kid/s in their custody for months not allowing both the parents to take the kid/s back home.
Every year I handle tens of hundreds of cases of household issues in the Indian families in Japan. Families are breaking down as incomes rise and houses become bigger. Communication between the family members is reducing. On the other hand, misunderstanding and misinterpretation is increasing. Well, we are becoming more and more judgmental than being accommodative. Whenever an issue is felt in the house, make sure you talk it out and solve it. You may please reach out to All-Japan Association of Indians (AJAI) for help. You may please contact us using the contact details on our website or through Facebook group etc.
Legal advice / Family court cases
Many a times, the couples having issues, come to me after they have resorted on taking help from the lawyers and the law. The lawyers in Japan charge anything between USD 4,500 to USD 7,000 to take a case in their hand and then 20% to 50% cut on the final settlement amount. I request such couples to first come out of the legal battle, as it is of no benefit to either of them, and to settle the things amicably. Sometimes the trust between the two is so much broken that the couples are not ready to come out of the legal battle.
Legal battles in Japan can run for years. Also, Japanese courts do not allow the dual custody of the kids. The full custody is given only to a single parent which in many cases results into abduction of the kids in the sense, the parent with the custody does not allow the other parents to see the kid for months and years.
Having said that, sometimes couples could be a complete mismatch. Their likes-dislikes, hobbies, choices could be totally different. In such case, if the going gets tough, there is no point in compromising the whole life, and I do not mind if the couple decides to separate, amicably, with due respect to each other. It becomes more important if the couple has kid/s. If so, the decisions must be taken in the best interest of the kid/s.
The Child Guidance Center (CGC)
The Child Guidance Offices offer counseling on all matters related to the growth of children and youth, ages 0-18, including:
- Questions concerning child raising
- Dealing with stress which may cause you to act violently toward your child
- Inability to care for your child due to illness or other situations
- Concern about the development of your child’s speech or growth
- Child’s recent tendency to stay out all night or to resort to violence at home
- Concern for your child not being able to make friends
- Concern for your child not willing to attend school
- Problems with your child’s education or guidance in higher education
- Child's human rights are at stake due to child abuse or other reasons
I have not covered the same-sex or LGBT marriages in this document in the lack of knowledge and research. Please accept my apology for the same. For this, you will have to first find a jurisdiction that allows such kind of marriages and confirm the law/rules of the land.
- Apostille services: Wikipedia
- Notary Public in Japan: Notary Public
- All-Japan Association of Indians (AJAI): AJAI
- CGC in Tokyo CGC