David Chart's Japan Diary

September 27th 2005

The early part of this week was fairly dull: I worked. That brings us up to Saturday evening. There was one notable event: my application for a Japanese credit card succeeded. This is extremely useful, as it means that I can keep my accounts in one currency, finally. I ordered a couple of Japanese books (about Shinto) from Amazon to mark the occasion.

On Saturday night, we watched a DVD together: National Treasure. This is an adventure film, starring Nicholas Cage, about unravelling clues left by the US Founding Fathers to find a treasure that belonged to the Knights Templar. Silver recommended it, and I agree. I thought it was a very good film. Part of that was that brains and historical knowledge were more important than physical prowess, a message I find appealing. However, the script was also very clever. I loved the Daylight Saving Time scene, for example. It was entertaining, important to the plot, and told you a lot about the characters. It was definitely worth paying half a rental fee to see.

On Sunday, Yuriko went to a friend's wedding. The Japanese custom, apparently, is not to invite both halves of a couple; you only invite the half that you know well. Another of those odd differences. Both bride and groom were Japanese, so the wedding was, naturally, Western style. Yuriko said that a lot of it was very nice, and gave her ideas for our wedding. Since she wasn't around, I took most of the day easy; I had to do a bit of work, because I'd lost a day making wedding reservations last week, but on the whole I relaxed.

Yesterday was much busier for both of us. Yuriko was in work, and went to an event in the evening, so she didn't get back until after I'd gone to bed. In the morning, I went to the British Embassy to do some more of the admin preparatory to getting married. This involved paying a lot of money (16,400 yen), signing a piece of paper saying that I was over eighteen and not already married, and swearing on the Bible that I wasn't fibbing.

I really don't understand why they include that part. First, the Bible says that you shouldn't swear that you are telling the truth, which makes it a bit self-contradictory. Second, the number of people who believe that they will suffer divine vengeance is rather limited these days; it has no deterrent effect. Finally, there seems no point. The normal reason for requiring oaths is that, while lying is legal, lying under oath is not. However, lying about already being married at your second wedding is already illegal. It adds nothing at all to the process, as far as I can see. Still, it didn't take long.

The notice will now be posted in that office for three weeks, in case anyone objects. I don't think it sees a lot of traffic, given the security checkpoint at the gate. I wonder if they'd let you in if you said you wanted to look at those notices? The security is fairly tight: there are a number of Japanese police, you get wanded, and you are only allowed small bags, which they look inside. They also keep your mobile phone. I wonder whether that was because (a) they are a major security risk or (b) the embassy staff got sick of people talking on them. My guess would be that the official reason is (a), and the real reason is (b). (Brief tangent: I see that UK mobile phones have just launched internet capacity. The free-with-an-account phones in Japan have had it for years, at least since I got here. So there.)

Anyway, after the notice has been on the wall for three weeks, the office will send me a certificate saying that I am legally free to marry. Incidentally, while I was in the office I had a look at the notices already displayed. There were about ten. All but one were for British men marrying Japanese women. The last was for a British woman, with a Chinese-sounding name, marrying a Singaporean man. The bias there really is remarkable.

The British Embassy is very impressive. It's big, all sprawled out in large grounds, directly across the moat from the Imperial Palace. I guess that this is an advantage of establishing good relations with Japan immediately after the country opened up in the nineteenth century. It seems to be a little-known fact that World War II was a hiccup in Anglo-Japanese relations; the Japanese were British allies in World War I, and relations were patched up fairly quickly after the war, as well. One visible side effect of this is, as I say, the sheer size of the British Embassy grounds; a quick check in the map suggests that they are significantly larger than the US Embassy grounds, and more centrally located. Europhiles may be pleased to note that the only flag I saw flying was the EU flag, presumably because the UK is currently president of the EU. I'm sure the Union Flag was flying somewhere, but I wasn't allowed to just wander around.

Anyway, after the British Embassy, I went to the Miyamae Ward Office to check about the next stage of proceedings. It is largely as I expected; we just hand over a form and it takes about half an hour; we don't need an appointment. It is OK if I translate the necessary documents, which is a relief, as it saves the trouble of finding a translator. I picked up the necessary forms, and Yuriko was quite excited about seeing them; they crop up in dramas a lot, but it was the first time she'd seen the real thing. While I was at the office, I also checked about my taxes, and was told that I don't need to register a change of address yet, so that's OK.

Today is a working day again, of course, but for some reason I'm very tired. I think we need more curtains in the bedroom; it gets too bright too early. I don't know when we're going to have chance to go to buy them, though. Fitting such things in around the demands of work gets a little tricky, as I'm sure everyone is aware.