March 14: International Marriage Day

It may be inappropriate to move on to non-earthquake topics, but it just so happens that I just now discovered that today is International Marriage Day in Japan.

I was reading about Philipp Franz von Siebold, the German physician who traveled extensively across Japan for eight years from the time of his arrival in 1823, playing a key role in teaching Europe about Japan upon his return. The wikipedia article also contains this section:

Since mixed marriages were forbidden, von Siebold “lived together” with his Japanese partner Kusumoto Taki (楠本滝). In 1827 Kusumoto Taki gave birth to their daughter, Oine. Von Siebold used to call his wife “Otakusa” and named a Hydrangea after her.

That made me wonder — if mixed marriages were forbidden during the Edo Period, when was the restriction lifted? It took very little research to see that this came on 14 March 1873 (Meiji 6), from which time marriages to foreigners were permitted — a copy of the issued order being shown below. Consequently, 14 March — today — is International Marriage Day (although it’s not widely recognized, and probably no better known than 15 March being Shoes Anniversary Day).

The first recorded international marriage took place on 27 January 1874 between Mr. Juro Miura and Ms. Crausentz Gertamier (accurate Roman alphabet spelling unknown) after they met while Miura’s studied in Germany. They were married at a church in Tsukiji in Tokyo.

Importantly, government approval was required for Japanese women to marry foreigners, and they lost their Japanese citizenship (bungen) upon marrying a foreigner. Similarly, foreign women acquired Japanese citizenship upon marrying a Japanese man. In the 1870s, Japan was still in the process of developing its legal system and the concept of citizenship and citizen were not yet clear. This was put into law by the Meiji Constitution and Citizenship Law that were both enacted in 1899, but the system remained essentially unchanged until 1916, when Japanese women only lost their Japanese citizenship if they acquired foreign citizenship.

7 thoughts on “March 14: International Marriage Day”

  1. “[Japanese women] lost their Japanese citizenship (bungen) upon marrying a foreigner.”

    Similar rules were also on the books in the US. Prior to 1922, women were considered to have the citizenship of their husbands, and so lost their US citizenship if they married foreigners (American men had no such restriction). This was amended in 1922 with the passage of the Cable Act, which allowed women to keep their US citizenship, but only if they married “alien[s] eligible to naturalization.” At that time, however, Asians were ineligible, so an American woman marrying an Asian man would still lose her citizenship.

    The Act was amended in 1931 to allow women married to ineligible aliens to keep their citizenship, and was repealed entirely in 1936.

  2. I understand that it was illegal in much of the USA to marry outside one’s racial group until the late 1940s.

  3. … BUT Pinkerton not only got himself married; he provided himself with an establishment — creating his menage in quite his own way and entirely for his own comfort.

    With the aid of a marriage-broker, he found both a wife and a house in which to keep her. This he leased for nine hundred and ninety-nine years. Not, he explained to his wife later, that he could hope for the felicity of residing there with her so long, but because, being a mere “barbarian,” he could not make other legal terms. He did not mention that the lease was determinable, nevertheless, at the end of any month, by the mere neglect to pay the rent. Details were distasteful to Pinkerton; besides, she would probably not appreciate the humor of this.

    Interesting article, Curzon. And the timing is interesting. John Luther Long’s “Madame Butterfly” (the short story from which I quote above) was written in 1898, but even the original version of the opera by Puccini wasn’t composed until 1904, after the Constitution and Citizen Law.

  4. One of the highest profile foreign marriages was that between George Dennison Morgan, nephew to the banking colossus J P Morgan, and Yuki Kato in 1904. Kato was from a good family fallen on hard times who was sold to Gion. When Morgan met her, she already had a patron at Kyoto University but he bought her out of contract for 40,000 yen. She lost her Japanese citizenship as a result of the marriage and the couple ended up in Paris. When Morgan died suddenly in Spain, a huge inheritance battle ensued, not least because Kato wasn’t recognized as an American citizen either. It appears she managed to win some claim to assets and eventually moved back to Kyoto as WWII broke out. She died in 1963 and is buried in a catholic plot on the grounds of Kinkakuji.

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