I will never be (legally) his: Problems facing interracial couples in Japan

Interracial couples have never had it easy. Throughout history we’ve been legalized, abolished, begrudgingly accepted, and discriminated against. In today’s world, being an interracial couple isn’t half bad.

Unless, of course, you’re in Japan. Socially (aside from a couple stares), everything is fine. Politically… well that’s a different story…

Inner racial couple heartI will never (legally) be in his family

According to Article 39 of the Japanese Basic Resident Registry Law (juumin kihon daicho hou), foreigners “may not be noted” on the official resident certificate. The family records, that hold the last ten generations of my love’s family, will never have my name etched in it. We also cannot create a separate family registry, since I am not Japanese.

But that’s ok.

My name will be in the “remarks” section, at the bottom of the document. His family knows I exist.

I will never be a Japanese wife

By many standards, we will never be “officially” married. But hey, if we’re lucky, our local Municipal welfare office will send Ryosuke a check every month since, according to their records, he is living in a “single parent household.”

But that’s ok.

We’re going to put each check into our “travel the world” piggybank.

Seijinshiki photos of a foreigner (Coming of Age Ceremony)I will never be a Japanese mother

Without proof the child is mine (my name on the family registry), schools in Japan are not legally required to release any information about my child (from homework assignments when they’re sick to their class schedule) to me.

But that’s ok.

That means the kids will have to ask their father for homework and kanji help.

I will never be the head of the household

If Ryosuke dies, one of our children will (most likely) be placed as the legal head of the household.

But that’s ok.

If Ryosuke dies, I will be an emotional wreck. The last thing I would want to do is legally run the family.

I will never be buried in his family graveyard

Foreign spouses are rarely allowed to be buried in the Japanese family grave. The family grave is a big block of carved marble which holds generations of the family’s ashes. It is very traditional and holds historic value. It won’t hold me, though.

But that’s ok.

I want my ashes to be scattered somewhere cool. I don’t want them to spend eternity underground.

Cemetery in Sendai, JapanI will never be allowed in certain spas, hotels, and nightclubs

Some traditional establishments hate foreigners. According to a recent survey by the Japanese Ministry of Internal Affairs, “over seventy percent of Japanese inns and hotels that didn’t have foreign guests last year don’t want any in the future.” Most nightclubs, soaplands, or other sex-industry related establishments in Japan strictly prohibit foreigners.

But that’s ok.

Soaplands creep me out

And really, all of this is ok, because 55 years ago, our marriage would have been illegal (in America). The legality of the matter doesn’t, well, matter. According to the 2010 census, there are over 300,000 interracial couples living in Japan. Considering the fact that only 1.6% of Japan’s legal resident population is actually foreign, this is pretty impressive.

When people hear this, they always ask me “Any you’re sure you want to marry into that society?” I’m not marrying into the society. I’m marrying Ryosuke. There’s a difference.

And this is ok because I’m marrying my best friend.

Inner racial, innerracial Japanese American couple

Written for the Daily Prompt: Never

For more on Romance, check out The Butterfly Effect: What a Racing Heart and Fluttery Stomach do to a Relationship or The Four Stages of Long Distance: Surviving the Separation

Add me on Google Plus: +Grace Buchele


13 responses to “I will never be (legally) his: Problems facing interracial couples in Japan

    • Thank you 🙂

      I’m glad to hear that. I wasn’t sure how much of a problem it would really be (most of the sites I could fine online couldn’t state statistics).
      Thank you for the message!

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  4. Hey Tex,
    This was a really interesting post because when I married my Japanese wife, we had to send our original wedding certificate to the local Japanese Consulate so they could send it back to Japan. I thought that was so I could go on to her family roll but from what you are saying, that is not the case. My wife reckons we have started our own new family roll. I might have to investigate this further as my wife does not really care about these legal issues, similar to yourself.

    Nice post

    • Thanks! I’ve heard a couple people who have said similar things. Since our wedding date isn’t for a couple more months, we don’t really know the full legal state we will be in.
      I’ve heard they changed foreigner registration laws last June; hopefully the process will be easier.
      My fiance doesn’t much care about the legal issues, similar to your wife.

      Did y’all end up having any trouble getting married/staying married because of legal problems in Japan?
      Thanks for your comments!

      • We actually got married here in Australia and had to send our original marriage certificate to Japan which I was not very happy with. Then, I was told that we were not on her family roll but had to start our own roll. Its all very ambiguous.

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