How to get a document “apostilled” in Japan

Lately my job has kept me embroiled in legal matters involving civil law countries in Europe, and as a result, I’ve become very familiar with a fun little device of international law called an apostille.

apostilleBasically, an apostille is a certificate which authenticates a government document so that the document is effective as a government document in any country which has acceded to the Hague Convention of 1961. (There are a few big countries which haven’t, such as China, Brazil and Indonesia, but most of Europe and the English-speaking world is on board.)

These can be necessary in any number of contexts. Among them:

  • If you sign a document before a Japanese notary, the notary generally has to attach an apostille to their certification in order to make it valid as a notarized document in other countries.
  • In the business arena, apostilles are often necessary when a Japanese company is directly buying property or taking a lien on property, particularly in civil law countries where this has to be done through a professional notary.
  • In the courtoom, apostilles are often necessary when making extradition requests, or if entering a Japanese government document as evidence in litigation.

Apostilles are always issued by government offices, although the exact issuing entity varies by country. In the United States, for example, one can obtain an apostille from any state government or from any federal court. Japan keeps tighter control over the process, and there are basically two ways to get an apostille here if you need one:

1. The neighborhood notary public

All notary offices in Tokyo and Kanagawa can attach an apostille to a notarized document; you just have to ask the notary when you go in to sign. (Note, however, that notaries attached to foreign embassies are not likely to have apostilles on hand; assuming they don’t, you would have to get an apostille from the competent authority in their home country.)

2. MOFA

The other way to get an apostille—and the only way to get an apostille on government documents other than notarials—is to apply directly to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. You can either do this in person or by mail: applications are accepted at the MOFA building in Tokyo (2-2-1 Kasumigaseki, Chiyoda-ku 100-8919) and the Osaka prefectural government building (2-1-22 Otemae, Chuo-ku 540-0008). If you do it in person, you have to leave the document overnight and pick it up the next day. All the details in Japanese are on this page.

There is a special procedure to be aware of when getting an apostille on a Legal Affairs Bureau document, such as a corporate registration certificate or real estate record. The registrar seal printed on the certificate is not enough for MOFA to issue an apostille; you also have to get a separate certification of the registrar’s authority sealed by the head of the bureau. In Tokyo, this is issued from a secluded office buried in the back of the 6th floor.

19 thoughts on “How to get a document “apostilled” in Japan

  1. Cool, I learned a new word today.

    Is this called an アポスティーユ in Japanese or something else?

  2. How would I get an apostille for a Japanese Marriage certificate in Osaka? I believe I need it translated to English and have then both apostilled. Where can I find the Notary offices in Osaka?

    Thanks

  3. Luke: You have to go through MOFA. Notaries can’t apostille government documents. They can only apostille private documents like contracts (i.e. things that can be notarized).

    The translation process depends on which foreign government agency is demanding the apostille. Ask them about what they require.

  4. Say I need a deed modification in Texas to be signed by a Japanese national living in Niigata Shi, I could sent the ministry the document, they will authenticate it, have him sign it, and send it back, and it would be honored here?

  5. I was once married to a Japanese national but we got divorced a while ago. Now I am planning to marry a Chinese national living in mainland China. I have a copy of the rikon todoke and the jurishoumeisho, but am living in the States. Does anyone know how I can get the Single Status document required by the Chinese government? Would I need to travel to Japan again or can I do the paperwork from here. My problem is a non-responsive Chinese embassy (Tokyo) and consulate (LA)...

  6. Terry, where are you getting married? In Japan, the proof of single status is fulfilled by making out an affidavit at the US embassy.

  7. i need to get my family registration (koseki tohon) apostilled ,but the problem is im living in germany now ,does someone knows how to get my document apostilled without going in japan? i really need it because i was divorced with a japanese and now they need a proof here in germany if im really divorced so i can register my new born baby cos they dont want to register her if i dont get my document apostille cos they dont accept it without this stamp…help

  8. I suggest calling the Japanese embassy in Berlin (website). The embassy can often certify a document themselves to satisfy local authorities, or at least give you some guidance on the easiest way to get documents accepted in Germany.

  9. hi,the german authority is asking me a marriage certificate and a divorce certificate from japan ,cos i was married before with a japanese citizen and died last 2 years ago,porpusly to register my baby here in germany so now i send a letter to japan and they send me the koseki tohon,i gave it here in the cityhall in germany but they dont accept it and it has already apostilled,they want all documents separated just a marriage contract and a divorce contract,does in japan have this kind of documents? But what evidence do I as a foreigner have that a divorce has taken place? For example if I want to get married in another country I will have to show some kind of evidence that I am not married.

  10. How do I get a copy of my divorce certificate and marriage certificate without travelling to japan, i was divorced with a japanese last 2001 and my ex died ,

  11. can u help me….......really2 help….
    me n my japanese bf want to get marry in malaysia but how he want to get his single status certificate for us to register our marriage in malaysia? pls help me by showing the way…really appreciate it. tq

  12. You should be able to get “Divorce Certificate” from nearby japan embassy

  13. Hey there, I am living in Kanagawa and need to get my US Diplomas ad background checks apostlized for a job in Korea. Can we get a US Apostile here?

  14. Dear Joe and Luke,

    Hello, I am actually in the same boat as many of you here. I am Japanese citizen and trying to get married to an army guy. I need to get my Birth certificate translated and get it apostilled for me to get army insurance called deers. So my friend did give me the site you mentioned above but I could not understand the processing fee. I am thinking of mailing the required documents very soon and I hope and pray that it does not take forever.

  15. IMy amercian (ex) husband and I were divorced in Japan. I need an original copy of my divorce decree with an international Apostille on it. I am currently living in Germany and need this to send in to get my German marriage legally divorced. Could you please advise me how I will be able to get this copy? Otherwise Germany will not annotate my divorce.

Comments are closed.