Sunday, May 3, 2009

Getting married in Japan

Wedding ceremonies. White dresses, gold rings, lots of flowers and church bells! Sounds great doesn't it? That's why I was so set on having one, even more so than my fiancée, in fact.

However, even before proposing to my bride-to-be it soon became apparent that getting married was going to be a bigger challenge than I ever expected. I mean, sure the ceremony itself is going to be expensive, and require a bit of effort from my end. However, in comparison to the bureaucracy that the marriage incurs, the ceremony itself is going to be a walk in the park.

Usually people in Japan just get married, and update their family registers. If you're a foreigner, however things are different. And hell, you'd expect them to be, what's worse is being British. (For once) I've no problem with the bureaucracy on the Japanese side, it's my own country that's giving me frustration now.

If you want to get married in Japan you've got to go through the following procedures (Courtesy of the UK in Japan website):

"Japanese law requires that all marriages here must take place at a local Ward or City office. The couple must submit a notice of "Intention to Marry" or "kon-in-todoke" to the Ward/City office, the Marriage officer will then issue a "Certificate of Acceptance of Notification of Marriage" or "kon-in-todoke-juri-shomeisho" and the couple will be married."

OK, sounds oh-so-simple. However...

"When the marriage involves a non-Japanese national, the Marriage officer must be shown a "Certificate of No Impediment" (CNI or in Japanese "yoken gubi shomeisho") by the non-Japanese party."

Fair enough, you wouldn't want married people coming from abroad and picking up extra wives, I guess..

Now, you can get a CNI in Japan (see this link), or you can get one in England by giving notice to marry at the local registrar office. This then needs to be taken to the consular office, that will have the Japanese equivilent drawn up for you (which will set you back about £63, for Her Majesty's Government's coffers).

Well done, you're now married...

This is the best bit though, if you want to settle in the UK with your newfound wife check out these fees (here) 87,750 yen thats over £500 pounds! I mean hell, that's a little steep, don't you think? It can't possibly cost £500 worth of man-hours to process one application, I think we can all rest assured that Her Majesty's government will be enjoying a tidy little bonus on all these VISA applications.

Its not like this is to put people off sham marriages either, they've plenty of checks for this kind of thing (although I do wonder about the "are you a terrorist" bit)

The whole VISA thing is completely farcicle. I probably wouldn't be complaining if I had a decent job, but getting to Japan and back, plus the wedding costs is going to make this a very expensive year as it is.

The worst part is the procedures, though. For Maachan to get herself a VISA there is a pile of supporting documents and whatnot that she'll need. I'm sure the Japanese information is out there, but it seems like its not so easy to find. Whatsmore she doesn't seem to be getting much cooperation from the local authorities in getting hold of the information. Once my exams are over, it'll be my task to go over each chapter of the VISA legislation and figure out exactly what is needed, because the VISA application form notes are simply terrible.

Saturday, March 21, 2009


So, I managed to find some udon noodles in the university's shop (I love that place, so much oriental food!). I also happened to have my special nabe saucepan, so I thought I'll make nabe!

To my amazement, I also managed to find a large, white radish, which is usually used in nabe. It was under the name of "mooli" in Tesco, but I know it as daikon. Nevertheless, that meant I'd be able to make a pretty convincing nabe, at least by my estimation.

Here's what I ended up using:

-1/4 of a mooli
-1/4 of a romaine lettuce
-handful of beansprouts
-2 carrots
-4 slices of bacon
-1 pack of udon
-a small pack of tofu

I figure thats about enough for 2 people, but I didn't have lunch, so I was particularly hungry. Although, you might want to consider adding a pack of udon.

So, here's pretty much how it went:

-I peeled the mooli and cut a few slices about 3/4 of a cm thick, and I peeled and cut 2 carrots, not into slices, but into wedges, because I like it to be thick, but find wedges easier to pick up*. Once cut, these all went into half a pan of water and put on full heat while I prepared everything else (I find it best to put these in first because they take a long while to cook).

-next, I chucked a few slices of bacon in (I should point out that proper pork is a better meat to use if you can cut it thin enough, but I'm too lazy for that, especially since I'm just cooking for myself)

-while all of that bubbled away, I cut some tofu into 8, approximately 1cm, blocks and chucked it into the pot along with some beansprouts

-at this point, I cut up some mushrooms. You can cut them up quite thick and chuck them in straight away, or cut them thin and add them a few minutes before serving *2.

-it was going to be a little while until the mooli were soft enough, so I used this time to make the sauce. I pretty much improvised here, as I don't know the actual recipe, but for a refreshingly sour sauce I added soy sauce, vinegar and lemon juice together.The main constituant was soy sauce, and there was probably about equal amounts of vinegar and lemon juice. The sauce shouldn't taste overly lemony, vinegary or too much of soy sauce. The best thing to do is just make it and see how it tastes. It will be pretty strong, and might even necessitate diluting somewhat, depending on how you like it.

-OK, with the sauce done and the mooli now soft enough to skewer with a chopstick with little resistance, I chopped some romain lettuce into quarters. I took just one of these quarters and cut it in half lengthwise before dumping it together with the udon noodles in the pan. You can add a tablespoonful or so of the sauce to the pan too.

-from putting in the udon and lettuce, I waited about 3-4 minutes before taking the pan off the heat.

-So far as serving up goes, I just placed the pan on a heat-resistant placemat. Then, with sauce in a seperate bowl, transfered food from the pan into the bowl, and ate from that.

Mmmm. Lovely. Another note, when you have eaten everything, and only water remains in the pan, you can add that water to the sauce-filled bowl you've just eaten from and then drink it. Dunno if that's everyone's cup of tea, but I think its a great way to finish off the meal, as well as making sure you don't waste a scrap.

*Back when I was in Japan, my fiancée somehow managed to cut a piece of carrot so it ended up almost perfectly round. Don't ask how the hell she did it, but it was a real b***h to pick up with chopsticks

*2) My fiancée told me afterwards that it was a little strange to use mushrooms at all, but I think they taste good, and there are a number of versions of nabe that use mushrooms

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Travel Journal

So, here is my travel journal, it's a bit of a read, but there's plenty of nuggets of Japanese culture in there.


Travel Journal - My year in Japan

First post

I've long kept a blog in Japanese (here: ブログ) but I've not had much reason to blog in English of late.

I expect to use this blog mostly to discuss Japanese language and culture, and my other passions, science and photography. The latter of those three being the only thing I really talk about in my Japanese blog.

I'll also throw in information that I've found useful from time to time, but for the most part, I'll keep to the above themes.

To start off, I've got a Travel Journal from my time in Japan which I want to share, because it's a shame to have it lay around unread, so I'll spend the next 30 mins (hopefully) posting that here.