Same-sex, wills and pensions

Same-sex marriage

Reader W. offers some very interesting information on the topic of same-sex marriage in Japan.

Same-sex marriage, she writes, is not recognized in Japan, but many gay couples get around these issues by “adopting” each other. Under Japanese law, anyone can be adopted by anyone, as long as they are one day older and not already in son/daughter relationship with them.

They are listed as an adopted son or daughter of the older person’s “koseki tohon,” and are legally recognized as family. They in fact automatically take the last name of the person they are adopted by.

While the law was originally intended (and still is used) to provide sons to households with only daughters to carry on the family name, same sex couples have quietly been using it for years as a way of cementing their relationships. It’s not a very well known fact, but definitely interesting.

In some cases, a foreign adult can legally be adopted under Japanese law by a Japanese adult. This might be one way to secure a visa for the same-sex couple. In fact, the Japanese national softball team coach adopted a Chinese softball player to get her on the team.

Pension refund

Reader Kai is wondering if his ward office can make a refund from the National Pension system (ie. the Lump Sum Withdrawal Payment) to an overseas bank account as he does not have a local account in Japan.

If foreigners who have contributed to the pension system for 6 months or longer leave Japan permanently before they have paid into the system for 25 years, they are entitled to a partial refund, known as a Lump-sum Withdrawal Payment.

The amount returned is based on the length of time spent paying into the system, and must be applied for within two years of leaving Japan.

Once applied for, the pension refund usually arrives within a couple of months, and is deposited into a designated bank account. Since the payment is designed for people who have theoretically left Japan for good, provision is made for the deposit of the cash in an overseas account.

You can leave Japan, claim the money and then return to work here, though if you do this, the amount of time you’re registered as having paid into the pension system returns to zero, and you are not allowed to apply for another refund when you leave the country a second time.

An application form for the Lump Sum Withdrawal Payment can be picked up at your nearest Social Insurance Office or ward office.

These documents, plus a completed application form should be mailed to the Social Insurance Agency in Tokyo. The address is: 5-24, Takaido-Nishi 3-chome, Suginami-ku, Tokyo 168-8505 The Social Insurance Agency can be reached at (03) 3334-3131.


On the subject of wills in Japan (see Lifelines; Dec. 6), Hide writes that not only Japanese but also non-Japanese residing in Japan can make wills and get them notarized by a city hall with two witnesses as requested.

Each prefecture has “gyoseishoshikai” or an association of lawyers that is authorized by the respective governors. They have English-speaking solicitors to help foreign residents.

Alishan events

Jack at the Alishan Organic Center writes that the center in Saitama, which now includes a cafe and an event area, has a range of activities planned for 2006 — including cooking classes with domestic and overseas chefs, candle making, seminars on home farming and a movie night.

There is also a textile event planned for May.

If any readers are interested in getting involved, check out for more information and contact details.