Today, we (almost) got married– in Japan!
So we’re in Japan, in the Prince Park Hotel, and have no idea what we’re doing. It’s morning and we don’t know what people do for breakfast around here; we got in late and didn’t see any restaurants in the area, just a big park.
The first floor of the Prince Park Hotel has a boulangerie, and holy shit– I thought only New York had decent baked goods, but these were unlike anything we’d ever eaten before! We got all sorts of breads, orange rolls, and croissants and tore them up back in our room. The breads here are so light and airy, with none of that residual feeling of heaviness that we normally feel after eating, especially in the southern US. Everything at home has a ton of butter in it.
Stomachs full of carbohydrates, we set off for the Chuo Ward Municipal Office by way of Daimon station.
We braved the Japanese subway system…
…and found it to be less complicated and more efficient than New York’s. This was a feat in and of itself– at home in Atlanta, the subway system layout is in the form of a cross. The trains take 30 minutes or more to show up and don’t go anywhere useful without further transport by car. So when we went to New York, we got a shocking reminder of what trains are actually supposed to do.
Before we left, we found a copy of the certificate we would be expected to complete and tried to pre-fill it out beforehand using Google Translate to make the process go smoother once we got there. If anything, it made it more difficult.
Chuo is supposed to have an English interpreter available on Tuesdays or so but they were not available as was supposed to be the case! They would also not accept the form we supplied that we completed ourselves; it had to be transcribed onto their official form…in Japanese.
I’d never written a single kana before and wasn’t about to try to transcribe this document standing there in the office. We started to worry that we wouldn’t be able to get the certificate completed and would end up leaving Tokyo empty-handed. Besides, we were advised we would need two third-party witnesses to sign the paper once it was complete– all this meant was convincing two random strangers to sign their name saying “we support this marriage,” but we couldn’t do that with an incomplete form.
On the way out, we grabbed lunch at a restaurant we saw on the way in. We had no idea how to order. The cook motioned at a machine that looked like a cigarette dispenser that had buttons all over it entirely in Japanese. We hung back and watched others come through, insert money and push a button, so we followed suit and picked items at random.
I had my first bowl of [something], and I don’t know what she ate either. We also had our first taste of green tea. It tastes like chlorophyll, roots and mud but I drained it anyway.
We went back to the Prince Park a little dejected. I really wasn’t looking forward to transcribing a document in a language I’d never written before, but did my best. It took a while to mimic all the kanji. When it came time to find witnesses, we went down to the concierge desk to see if they could be of any assistance.
The concierge took one look at our papers and shook his head– I got the impression there were some serious translation or transcription issues, since he politely asked if we had another copy and offered to help us complete it without going into details as to why. We were provided several blanks from Chuo so we gave him one, and he went through field-by-field asking us the questions and filling it in for us.
He even went so far as to be one of our witnesses and flagged down another staff member to be the second.
Success! We had a complete document!
Not to take advantage of their generosity, but if you’re ever looking to get married in Japan and have no idea what you’re doing, don’t make plans to stay in a hostel or discount hotel. Go somewhere nice that caters to business travelers where you can get assistance in English if needed…like the Prince Park!
(Not to be confused with the Park Prince Hotel– we don’t know anything about it, though it’s literally across the street. The Prince Park is a beautiful hotel, by the way. We had such a great stay while there, for this and many more reasons!)
We thanked him profusely and commuted back across town to the Chuo Ward Office.
And they were closed for the day. Well shit.
So we decided to go check out Tokyo Tower and finish getting married tomorrow!
(We hoped there would not be any more hangups, since we had an appointment the same day with the American Embassy for notary services related to the marriage paperwork that could not be rescheduled…!)