Notary publics, free legal advice


Notary public

K. thinks he has seen this question in Lifelines before, but he can’t remember the answer.

“I have a simple document from the U.S. that requires the signature and stamp of a notary public. I guess I could spend a few hours at the U.S. Embassy to get such a stamp, but isn’t there an easier way?

“Do you know of anyone in Tokyo who could quickly and easily notarize a document in a way that would be accepted in the U.S. Legal Counseling Center?”

The U.S. Department of State’s Web site on such matters describes Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Authentications Division (Shomei-han) 2-1 Kasumigaseki 2-chome, Chiyoda Ku, Tokyo 100, Japan, as a “competent authority.”

But the bureaucracy is mind-blowing. You need to request an application for obtaining an “apostille” (a new word to me if not to you) from the ministry, including an explanation as to why you need it.

Then after receiving the application, you must complete it and send it back to the Japanese authority with the “original” document to be authenticated bearing the appropriate seal of the issuing authority.

The “original” document must have been certified by the issuing office within the past six months.

You should also send a photocopy of the document and a self-addressed stamped envelope. You will receive the authenticated documents directly from the ministry.

There is no fee for this service.

For further information, you are advised to go to the U.S. Embassy.

Legal counseling

Paul is asking where to go for legal advice. His Japanese is not bad, he reckons, but certainly not up to handling legal matters.

His best bet (assuming he is not in a frantic rush) is to apply to Legal Counseling for Foreigners (in Japanese, Chinese and English) as provided at Bar Associations Building, 1-1-3, Kasumigaseki, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo.

Counselling is available Monday to Friday (except Thursday), from 1-4 p.m. (Thursday from 1-3 p.m.).

Note that this is not a walk-in service. You have to apply for an appointment. Applications are accepted from 9:30 a.m.-3 p.m. It’s closed on Saturdays, Sundays and national holidays.

Hand in your application at the Legal Counseling Center Reception on the first floor.

Appointments are generally made on a first-come, first-served basis, and applications accepted until staff reach the fixed number for the day’s counseling.

To make an appointment, call the Legal Counseling Centre Desk on (03) 3581-1511 (Japanese only).

The cost of legal advice from Monday to Friday (excepting Thursdays, which are free) is 5,250 yen (inc. tax) for first 30 minutes and 2,625 yen (inc. tax) for each additional 15 minutes.

The free counseling on Thursdays is offered by the Tokyo Branch of the Japan Legal Aid Association and available only for those with no or low incomes.