The Tokyo Partnership Oath System is Japan’s latest response to calls for marriage equality. Polls have shown for years that the majority of people in Japan support same-sex marriage — it’s the government that has been dragging its feet. Enter the Tokyo Partnership Oath System, a new program from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government.

So what is the Tokyo Partnership Oath System? In short, it’s a (baby step) in the right direction. As of November 2022, sexual minority couples can register their relationships and gain access to (a small number of) benefits. What does this means in practice? Read on for all the details you need to know.

What is the Tokyo Partnership Oath System?

The Tokyo Partnership Oath System is a way for LGBTQ+ couples in Tokyo to gain some official recognition. Under the system, couples can receive a “Certificate of Acceptance” that confirms “an oath and notification of a partnership has been made by two individuals, either or both of whom are sexual minorities.”

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It’s a small win for LGBTQ+ rights in Japan. However, it is not the same as same-sex marriage. And it’s definitely not a replacement for full marriage equality. So let’s take a closer look at what exactly the Tokyo Partnership Oath System does and doesn’t do.

Advantages of the Tokyo Partnership Oath System

Families come in all shapes and sizes.

The Tokyo Partnership Oath System does have some benefits. Once registered, a LGBTQ+ couple will have access to a (limited) number of public services. For example, couples can apply for public housing together. It may also prove beneficial in dealings with public institutions like the ward office, as the certificate functions as proof of a relationship.

Applicants can include aliases or chosen names, and can also have their children listed on the certificate. Find out more about the benefits in the English-language user guide.

What the Tokyo Partnership Oath System doesn’t do

Sadly, LGBTQ+ couples in Japan don’t get hospital visitation rights.

The Tokyo Partnership Oath System does not offer couples legal recognition of their relationship. Therefore it is very different from marriage. LGBTQ+ couples who register do not receive the same legal benefits as other married couples.

For example, registered LGBTQ+ couples still can’t:

  • Apply for spouse visas and family tax deductions
  • Be listed on the same family register
  • Be listed as a couple on a residence certificate
  • Access hospital visitation rights
  • Receive automatic inheritance or legal guardianship of children in the event of the death of one partner

So while it is progress, it’s not the same as marriage equality.

Who is eligible for the Tokyo Partnership Oath System?

Love is love.

To apply for the Tokyo Partnership Oath System both members of the couple must meet the following requirements:

  • Be aged 18 years or older
  • Not be married to another person
  • Not be related
  • Be living, working, or studying in Tokyo

Additionally, at least one person should identify as a “sexual minority.” This includes transgender, nonbinary, and gender nonconforming folks. For foreigners, citizenship and visa status aren’t taken into consideration.

Tokyo Partnership Oath System application procedure

Applications are made online.

There are no fees for registering.

Applying for the Tokyo Partnership Oath System is pleasantly straight forward. Each member of the couple needs to submit an online application. All you need to do is sign up on the website, fill out an application, and upload your supporting documents.

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Required documentation

You’ll need the following documents (in Japanese) to support your application:

  • Proof that neither party is married
  • Identity documents
  • ID photos taken in the last 3 months
  • Proof of employment or enrollment in a school in Tokyo

You can find a more detailed breakdown of the documents required here.

FAQs on marriage equality in Japan

Marriage equality is still a dream for Japan’s LQTBQ+ community.

Why isn’t same-sex marriage legal in Japan?

Same-sex marriage isn’t legal in Japan because of how the Constitution of Japan is interpreted by the current government. However, the constitution doesn’t actually say that same-sex marriage isn’t allowed. So while some say that same-sex marriage is unconstitutional, there’s room for argument. In fact, some people and organizations have started lawsuits that is bringing the debate to courtrooms.

Does Japan recognize same-sex marriages registered overseas?

No, unfortunately not. If an LGBTQ+ couple marries overseas, the union will not be recognized in Japan.

What is being done to legalize same-sex marriage in Japan?

There are a number of organizations working to legalize same-sex marriage and improve LGBTQ+ rights in Japan. Marriage For All Japan is working to achieve marriage equality, and is notable for their use of lawsuits to challenge current interpretations of the constitution. Meanwhile, Pride House aims to raise awareness of LGBTQ+ issues, as well as provide information and support for LGBTQ+ people in Japan.

While we do our best to ensure it’s correct, information is subject to change.

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Filed under: Living
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