Thursday, March 24, 2016

Getting married in Japan (2016)

I am Irish and this is my experience of getting married to a Japanese woman in Japan. When I searched the Internet for info, I couldn't find any, so I thought I'd share my experience. I hadn't previously entered into a marriage (which would require different paperwork that what's in this post).

On February 23rd, 2016 we went to our local village hall in Akita Prefecture to ask what documents we'd need to get married. They were not used to foreigners getting married, so they looked it up and a day later we were told that we'd need:

  • Certificate of Freedom to Marry
  • My fiancée's koseki
  • Completed marriage form (婚姻届) with 2 witnesses signatures
  • Form to change name (外国人との婚姻による氏の変更届). As a foreigner there are 3 options; neither person changes their surname, the bride takes the husband's surname, or the the groom takes the wife's surname.

  • Certificate of Freedom to Marry (aka. Certificat de Coutume)
    This is the most time consuming document to obtain.

  • Visit the Embassy of Ireland in Japan's webpage and complete the online questionnaire, known as the MP1 form. You'll need both your passports, and your long form birth certificate at hand. You also need to write the date you intend to marry. Save the pdf file when completed, and print off the form. This form has you application number on it.
  • After you complete the MP1 form you will be instructed to download and print the MP2A form. This has 2 pages. You will complete the first page with your names, addresses, date of births, and your name as it appears on your birth certificate (my passport doesn't have my middle name, but my birth certificate does).
    MP2A - page 1
    MP2A - page 2
    The second page of the MP2A indicates that it should be completed by a notary public (公証人), a commissioner for oaths (公証人), a solicitor (事務弁護士), or a diplomat (外交官). The reason for going to such a person is to have them prove that you are who you say you are. I went to a notary public in Noshiro, Akita, as recommended by a lady from the Irish Embassy in Tokyo. There are notary publics all around Japan. The guy I went to asked that I fax him the forms with a translation before I went to him. So I asked the Irish Embassy for a translation. Strangely, they didn't have a translation of the current form but gave me a translation of an older version, which is quite different.
    Old MP2A - page 1 - Japanese
    Old MP2A - page 2 - Japanese
    Understandably, the notary public refused to sign my MP2A form because he doesn't speak English and didn't know what the form said. Instead he gave me his own form in Japanese, and a translation in English (an English translation is required). This was perfectly acceptable (and expected) by the embassy. The form cost ¥11,000 and the translation was ¥6,000. So a total of ¥17,000 (about €140). After speaking with the Embassy they told me it is normal that notary publics use their own forms, not the MP2A! However if I was able to go to the embassy, with an appointment, the cost would have only been ¥5,700 (about €45).

  • Letter from notary public

    notary public letter translation

    Submitting my application
    I enclosed the signed MP1 form, with the 1st page of the MP2A form, the 2 notary public forms, and my original long form birth certificate (on the back of your birth certificate you must write the capital letter "A" and sign your name) in an envelope with €9,100 (¥8,600 for the cert and ¥500 for return postage). This envelope was sent to the embassy via cash registered mail (現金書留; genkin kakitome). I also included a note stating that the date I wished to get married was March 16, and asked that my application be processed in time. I posted it on February 29. On March 13 I received the Certificate of Freedom to Marry. I now needed to translate it for the village hall who told me that it didn't need to be an official translation.
    Certificate of Freedom to Marry
    Below is my translation. I know it's not perfect, but it was accepted by the village hall. I included the English too, as there are 5 different languages (unfortunately no Japanese!) on the cert. If you have any suggestions to make it better, please leave a comment below: ===================================
    The Embassy of Ireland certifies, according to documents produced to it and according to a solemn declaration made by this person, an Irish citizen, in accordance with the procedure prescribed by Irish law,
    Surname:   Cunningham  
    Forenames:  Owen
    Born:    _______
    Passport:   xx1234567
    Address:   _______
    that this person is not bound by the ties of a valid marriage or civil partnership under the laws of Ireland, and is therefore free to contract a marriage or civil partnership.
    Date: 8 March 2016
    Authorised person
    This document is valid for 120 days from date of issue.
    氏:    カニングハム 
    名:    オーエン
    生年月日:   西暦19xx年xx月xx日
    パスポート番号:   xx1234567
    住所:   秋田県xxxxxxxxxxx
    日付:  2016年3月8日

    On March 16, we brought our completed marriage form (example), the Certificate of Freedom to Marry, and the change of name form, similar to this. There was no charge. The lady checked our forms, accepted them, and said congratulations.

    We are now officially married!

    Monday, April 12, 2010


    On the 9th February a group of us headed to the northern island of Hokkaido. After about 20 hours travel, including a ferry, we arrived in the capital Sapporo. Every year they host the most famous snow festival in Japan; the Sapporo Snow Festival.

    We spent 2 nights in Sapporo before heading to Niseko, the most famous ski resort in Japan. Niseko is popular because of its size and mainly because of the powder snow!

    We rented a house there for 3 days. We spent our days snowboarding in the best snow I have ever been on. And we spent our evenings in onsens and checking out the local area. We went to an ice bar, where everything was made from ice; the walls, the bar, even the glasses!

    This is a video that Todd put together from our trip!

    Monday, February 8, 2010


    A friend of mine who lives in the neighbouring prefecture of Iwate asked me to organise a group of people to evaluate a doburoku tour that he wishes to offer as a service to tourists to the area. Doburoku (濁酒) is basically home make sake.

    So on February 6th a group of 16 of us went to Shizukuishi. Some of us went up early and had time to visit the Snow Festival at Koiwai Farm, the largest private general farm in Japan. It was pretty impressive too. There were all sorts of snow sculptures.

    This was a line of snow restaurants you could go into and have lunch!

    We then went to Minshuku Nakagawa (民宿なかがわ) for our hands-on doburoku making experience! The owner Mr. Nakagawa everything he was doing in detail and my friends wife Miho translated for us. It seemed pretty easy. Steam rice, let it cool, add some stuff and keep it in a barrel with the temperature maintained between 10 and 20 degrees for about a week. After that you have a load of doburoku!

    Before dinner started a few of us decided to go to an onsen. The closest one was Yukotan no Mori (ゆとかんの森). After showering and warming up in the inside bath, myself and Austin headed for the rotemburo (outside bath). We had to go out into the hall and down some stairs. I slipped going down the oddly shaped steps and bounced awkwardly and painfully down the last 3 or 4 steps. Embarrassed and bleeding I got up and tried to stop my elbow from bleeding. We continued into the onsen to meet the other 3 guys we were with and found that 2 of them had also slipped on the stairs! We compared injuries; my blood clinched the victory!

    We headed back to the minshuku for a dinner of a huge variety of local mountain dishes. It was delicious. And we got to drink as much as we wanted, for 4 hours!

    Then some of us put on our snowboarding gear and went outside for snow sumo!

    The next morning after breakfast we realised first that one of the drivers had lost his car keys while playing snow sumo, and that another person had lost a camera. So we were all running around looking for keys and cameras, sifting through snow in all the places we remembered playing sumo - which turned out to have been many places! Eventually Austin randomly kicked a bank of snow on the side of the road, the one created by the snowploughs after clearing the roads, and the spot he kicked just so happened to be where the keys were buried in the snow! Lucky!!!

    We finally left and headed to Shizukuishi Ski Resort for the day. It's a nice big ski jo with plenty of long runs, steep inclines, and plenty of black courses to enjoy!

    Thursday, February 4, 2010

    Winter Holidays

    In Japan, Christmas day is not a national holiday. Many of the foreigners here take holidays and travel. That's what I did last year when I went to Taiwan. But this year I decided to stay in Honjo.

    On Christmas Eve, Chika an myself went out for a romantic dinner at a local Indonesian restaurant. And then headed to a darts bar where we were given "Christmas" Cheese cake and hot sake from the staff. Later we were given the more traditional strawberry and cream style "Christmas" cake from random customers drinking in the bar.

    Christmas day was a Friday, and it just happened to be the last day of school before before winter holidays. And after a normal day at school, all the teachers had an end of year drinking party that night. The party started at 5:30 and we had a 4 hour all-you-can-drink and more food than we could possible eat!

    I brought along a small Christmas cake that my mother sent me (thanks Mam!), and we gave it to the staff at the izakaya, where the party was, to cut up for us. This is how my tiny slice was beautifully presented to me; on a long plate with icing sugar sprinkled like snow, Santa sitting in some cream, with his footprints precisely marked into the "snow" and a random thing on top of the cake (I can't remember what that was...).

    After our 4 hour drinking time expired, we headed off to our second party, where we all got boob shaped chocolate on our tables. It was a karaoke bar that had, for some reason unknown to me, garments and wigs that you could dress up in before you got on stage to sing! And as our group was pretty drunk at this stage two teachers were more than happy to dress up!

    The previous week I had dressed up as Santa for a kids party and as a thank you from the organiser I got a smoked turkey leg. So on St. Stephen's Day I cooked myself up as best a Christmas dinner as I could! For some reason the turkey looked and tasted like ham, so it was kindof like having turkey and ham?!

    On January 2nd Patrice, a girl I shared a house with in Limerick for a few years, came to visit on her way home from Australia. I always love when people from Ireland come to visit! It's nice to hear stories about home and be able to speak about stuff that only Irish people are familiar with; the latest Gift Grub etc.

    We travelled around a bit while she was here. We visited the local sights Yurihonjo has to offer; the jizo's, the buddha. Chika joined us when we travelled to the neighbouring prefecture to visit the sand onsen and a cave onsen; anayukko (穴ゆっこ).

    We went to Zao in Yamagata for 3 days. We went snowboarding in Zao Liza World and rode the Zao rope-way though the weather was very bad for both. We also visited one of the best nicest onsens I've ever been to; shinzaemon onsen (新左衛門の湯).

    Two days after Patrice left I went to Tazawako Ski Jo for the weekend with two other guys from Akita. The weather was good though visibility of the lake was minimal.

    Fun times!

    Monday, November 2, 2009


    On Sunday 1st October, as part of the local townspeople festival, there was a tororo eating competition. This competition has taken place every year in Ouchi for the last 26 years.

    第26回 元祖とろろめし大喰い大会
    Dai 26 kai Ganso Tororo meshi Oogui Taikai

    Each bowl is carefully measured out to have 120g of white rice with 90cc of tororo on top. We were given a set of chopsticks, two umeboshi and a napkin. And we had 15 minutes to eat as many bowls as we could. Drinking was not allowed.

    I was informed many times that participants got to keep the bowls that they eat from. And that each bowl is worth 300 yen, so I should at least eat 4 bowls to come out on top after paying the 1,000 yen entry fee!

    The night before had been the Halloween party in the city, so I wasn't feeling my best for the competition. And unfortunately for me both the presenter of the competition and the local TV camera guy decided to try talk to me. I was struggling a lot with forming English sentences that morning, never mind Japanese sentences!

    There were 29 participants in the competition. I managed to eat a mouthful short of 6 bowls when the final whistle blew. I tried really hard to finish the last bowl, but I physically couldn't.

    The winner of the competition ate 15 bowls! One bowl every minute! When he was walking up to get presented he was walking with an understandable discomfort. The female winner ate 12 bowls. And as you can see she not exactly the biggest of women either.

    This last photo appeared in a local Yurihonjo magazine called Shiseidayori (市政便り) or Koho Yurihonjo (広報ゆりほんじょう).

    Sunday, November 1, 2009

    Halloween Party

    Every year in Akita city we have a Halloween Dance Party and the proceeds go to Room to Read. This year we had a bigger turnout; due to relocating to a better venue and possible the fact that Halloween fell on a Saturday night this year.

    I'm not a huge fan of getting dressed up for events. The first year I was here my costume was a Kilkenny hurling supporter; simply because I had a Kilkenny jersey and a crazy Kilkenny hat. Last year I borrowed a costume of an anime character who plays tennis - I have no idea of his name! So this year I decided to put at least a small amount of effort into my costume.

    Shortly after arriving in Japan, about 2 years ago, a young student told me I looked like Lupin III; a great anime thief. So I decided to go with that look this year. Lupan III's trademark look is a red jacket with a yellow tie. And although the tie was not an issue to acquire the red jacket was. Luckily I found a Lupan III set in a local store.

    I was happy with how it looked.

    Me with Queen Chika.

    Monday, October 19, 2009

    Akita CC vs Sendai CC

    On October 18th Akita Cricket Team took on Sendai Cricket Team in Sendai. We played two games. Sendai clenched the first game by a single point. But Akita came back strong in the slightly longer second game to claim victory.

    The following report was written by our team captain; Tapojoy Mandal.

    A mere run separated us from Sendai in the first game, played over 10 overs. The highlights when bowling included a spectacular tumbling catch by Julie, who, by allowing the ball to bounce off her arms, shoulders and hands before she finally grabbed it with a face-forward dive, outdid David Thompson's similar effort (he only let it bounce once and so wasn't as spectacular). The catch gave Wil a wicket in his debut over. Julie followed that up with a wicket in her first-ever over as well, while Abby dismissed their wicket-keeper again. When batting, Paul played a spectacular debut innings - before being forced to retire on 22, he had spanked the ball all over the ground, losing the ball at least twice. Owen matched him with a good innings at the top of the order, but with both retired, the job to take us over the line, at the required rate of a run a ball, fell to debutants Robin and Todd. Very tight bowling by an experienced Sendai bowler made the task very difficult. It came down to us needing 2 runs to win off the last ball, and although Robin made a brave dive and looked to have made his crease, he was declared run out and we were denied even a tie.

    Much as that loss irritated us, we now knew we had to cut out the small mistakes in the field. The next game was a longer, 12-over contest, and we bowled and fielded brilliantly to restrict Sendai to a paltry 67 runs. We had the harder job of bowling and fielding in pouring rain, but Robin and Todd picked up their maiden wickets, and Julie and both Davids chipped in with important breakthroughs. Owen showed Sendai that wicketkeeping gloves were for sissys, with two stumpings and a catch with his bare hands. Tapo got into the act with the final two balls of the innings, getting two bowleds including the opposition captain for a golden duck (out without scoring first ball), completing 3 overs conceding only 6 runs. The fielding was effective throughout, with Austin and Julie particularly sharp.

    The rain receded but Akita's ballistic batting made Sendai wish it was still raining so that they could go home. Although Austin's foray as an opener ended with the first ball, he ran bravely for Wil, who had managed to tweak a muscle within a few minutes of taking the field. Wil followed Paul's lead in playing a debut innings of bravado, although he often forgot he had a runner and would set off at a hobble every time he connected. After he was dismissed for 23, we had a brief hiccup with some quick wickets, including Tapo when his foot brushed the base of the stumps and a bail dropped - quite unfortunate, considering in real cricket there is no base that sticks out half a foot either side - but then we unleashed Owen and he all but finished things off with a manic 25, retiring with just a run to get. Cue Abby to be in the middle during the winning moment as she has often done before, although it was left to Julie to clout the winning run. We had beaten them comfortably with several balls to spare and shown that the first game was just an aberration.