travel advice

Getting Married in Japan (as an Australian Foreigner!)

As you probably know by now, I'll be getting married in just over 3 months in the beautiful location of Kyoto, Japan. C and I chose Japan as we have family spread between Australia and the USA and we didn't want people to feel left out, so we opted for a very small ceremony with our immediate families in a place that we love. Instead of spending money on a big ceremony and reception, we thought it might be nice to have a holiday with our families!

Making the decision was the easy part. After booking our airfares and accommodation, I started looking at the legal requirements, thinking it would be fairly straightforward. Unfortunately most of my internet searches resulted in very negative attitudes towards the whole idea of foreigners marrying in Japan. I'm not sure why, but there's a lot of "it's too hard, why bother" and "you're wasting your time" to "why on earth do you want to get married in Japan anyway?! Just go to Vegas." I was close to giving up, when I found a post on a forum from Shandii. I got in touch with her and she has generously provided me (and anyone searching) with a step by step guide on getting married (legally) in Japan, written from her personal experience.

Marriage in Japan is not officially conducted at the ceremony like it is here in Australia. The official 'marriage' will occur in a Government office, devoid of any fancy dresses and romance. The ceremony itself is purely for show and is not required, or a part of, the legally binding 'marriage'.

I'll hand over to Shandii now, and she'll explain the nitty gritty of this elusive Japan wedding business.


As Australians to get officially married in Japan you will need to submit paperwork to an Australian Embassy in Japan and then submit paperwork at a City Office in Japan.

Please note the following:

  • This process is for Australians only.
  • You will either need to know how to read and write Japanese or hire a translator to speak and write for you.

Paperwork you will require before submitting paperwork:

  • Passports
  • Translated (to Japanese) copies of your passports (photo page).
  • Birth Certificates
  • Two completed Certificate of No Impediment marriageforms (1 for yourself and 1 for hubby/wife to be)
  • 2 witnesses to come with you to the City Office and their passport

FIRST STOP: Australian Embassy

You need to submit the applications of Certificate of No Impediment marriage at an Australian Embassy in Japan. Australian Embassies can be found in the following cities:

  • Tokyo
  • Fukuoka
  • Osaka
  • Sapporo

Addresses to the embassies can be found here:

Please note some Embassies have strict times and days when they will allow you to come in and submit the applications.

What the Australian Embassy requires:

  • Passports
  • Birth Certificates
  • Two completed Certificate of No Impediment Marriageforms

The No Impediment form will provide you with the No Impediment Certificate which the City Office needs to officially marry you. With the forms there is an English page and Japanese page and both are required to be completed.

As you may have guessed the Japanese page does need to be completed in Japanese. You won’t need to sign the Japanese page. You only need to sign the English page. When you submit the applications to Australian Embassy in Japan they will ask to see your passports and birth certificates and may take copies. It will cost around $89 each to process the applications and have the certificates made.

The Embassy will take up to 5 working days to process the application. They do ask for a Japanese address to have the certificates posted out but you can request if you can return to pick them up (We had ours sent to our hotel). You can post the applications to the Embassy but from what I remember there is a strict list of Japanese residents that need to certify the form (i.e. Japanese Policeman).

The Certificate of No Impediment will expire after 3 months and then you will need to submit new applications.

Once you've obtained your Certificate of No Impediment you can go to the City Office to get officially married!

SECOND STOP: Any City Office

You can choose to get married anywhere you like in Japan as long as there is a City Office.

I was officially married in the city of Okayama.

What the City Office requires:

  • Passports
  • No Impediment Certificates
  • Translated (to Japanese) copies of your passports (photo page).
  • 2 witnesses and their passport

The paperwork can take some time to complete and all needs to be done in Japanese. (It took us an hour and a half to complete with a translator and we also did this the day before our wedding ceremony)

Unlike Australia, in Japan you do not have to say vows.

The bride will be asked the following question:

"Do you understand that you will be marrying ‘Insert Husband’s name here’ in the City Of ‘Insert City name here’?"

Once the question is answered and the last of the paperwork is completed you’ll be officially married!

You’ll be asked to return in a couple of hours to get the completed marriage certificate. This will only cost you around $3 for the certificate. If you want another certificate to have as a spare it will be around $7 for two. This may vary from City Office to City Office.

On your return to Australia your marriage in Japan will be seen as an official marriage here in Australia however your Japanese marriage certificate won’t change your last name. You will need to complete a Deed Poll if you wish to change your last name to your husbands.

We used a company called Chris Poole Translation based in Melbourne, we did everything via email/mail and they also had translators based in Japan who we also hired to help us complete the paperwork at the City Office in Okayama.

Chris Poole Translation

For any enquiries, feel free to contact us on the number below 24 hours, any day of the year.

Address: 24 Greenwood Street | Abbotsford VIC 3067 Australia

Telephone: (61 3) 9391 0899

Facsimile: (61 3) 9391 0099



Thank you so much for sharing your experience, Shandii! You can say hi (or ask questions) to Shandii over at her blog, Shandii Crafts.



Travel Budget Tips | Holiday Ideas For Any Budget

Once you've figured out your budget (planning and saving), and how long you can take away from work, you can start looking at the kind of holiday that is going to work best for your circumstances. It's easy to see holidays as something in a glossy advert, but there are so many options. I remember a great vacation C and I took to the Hunter Valley, which is an expensive winery district north of Sydney. I managed to save up enough points on a grocery store loyalty card to score a free a one night stay at a winery, so we hopped in the car for a little adventure. Aside from gas money and food, the trip was free. It was only one night, but we set out early in the morning and left later in the evening the following day, so we squeezed in 2 full days for our overnight trip. We both felt like we'd had such a good break afterwards, I was pleasantly surprised.

Try to make the most of your holiday time by maximising it in smart ways.

If you are flying overseas, be conscious of jetlag. I try to make sure that I land at my destination in the afternoon or evening, so no matter how many hours I've been awake in transit, I pass out from exhaustion at a fairly 'normal' sleeping hour for where I have landed, and therefore wake up at a 'normal' time to start my day. Let's face it, Australia is really far from anywhere (aside from maybe New Zealand), so we generally have to deal with long flights and this method is incredibly helpful for us!

Weekend Getaway

Whether you work Monday to Friday or irregular hours, the 'weekend' getaway (whenever your weekend falls) is the perfect way to take a trip without needing any time away from work. If you have flexible working hours, consider a mid-week getaway as accommodation is cheaper, and if you're driving, there is probably less traffic heading to the holiday destinations.


Once again, this could be a short term or longer term vacation. If you have your own camping gear, or can borrow some, this is very budget friendly as well. Different campsites have different levels of facilities, so choose somewhere that suits your needs (i.e. do you want a shower/toilet, or are you cool to be a nature child for a few days?). Camping is generally a great option if you love nature and you're on a smaller budget. Even if that's not the case, it's a lovely opportunity to 'switch off' and re-connect with your family/friends (or yourself!) around a nice campfire. Boardgames, anyone?

Road Trip

I think road trips might be my favourite. There's just something about the freedom of an open road. On a road trip, you can find the places less traveled, like the motel we found in Maine with the 'Jesus' pattern in the woodgrain of our bathroom door. If you like adventure, eating car-snacks and discovering new places, a road trip is a brilliant option. Budget will vary depending on if you own or rent a car, and what kind of accommodation you choose. My dear American friends, please don't talk to me about gas money. You guys have it SO good. Trust me. (But don't forget to budget for gas!)

Charity/Volunteer Break

Have you ever considered turning your vacation into a positive experience for you, and for someone else? There are so many charitable options, from volunteering to assist residents in areas damaged by natural disaster, to building homes for people less fortunate. My sister took her first trip out of Australia to build houses in Mexico and she had an amazing time! It can be a really rewarding experience, and one definitely worth considering.

Whatever your budget, consider the kind of activities that you and your travel companions enjoy and make sure you head somewhere that accommodates these. If you love shopping and culture, maybe a city break suits you best. Or if you like nature, somewhere that has great hiking trails. If you have kids to entertain, make sure there are plenty of fun activities to make the experience memorable for them. If you enjoy sightseeing, plan ahead so that you can find the attractions/locations in the area you'll be traveling. There are so many options, all you need to do is head out there into the big wide world!

What's your favourite kind of vacation? Do you have any other tips to share? Tweet me or leave a comment below.


Travel Budget Tips | How to Save Money On Your Vacation

This post has been written in partnership with Southern Cross Travel Insurance, however all opinions and advice are my own, and are in no way influenced by this fact.

Congratulations! You've put a budget plan in place and now you're reaping the rewards by vacationing in Paris. But let's rewind. You've worked hard to save up for your vacation and tourists are easy prey for expensive everything. Let's look at ways to save money on your vacation and get the most out of those savings.

Before you leave

Pay for as much as possible in advance. Even if you like to go with the flow and don't like a structured itinerary, there are some big ticket items that you can factor in before you walk out your front door.

Purchase airfares, train passes, bus tickets or any other transport that can be pre-paid ahead of time. You'll often receive a better deal by booking in advance (especially with airfares). Always check for hidden charges too, sometimes airfare prices don't include things you need like baggage and meals, so be sure to factor those into the cost.

If you need to rent a car, it's definitely worthwhile shopping around. I've been quoted wildly different prices between third party websites and the car rental company direct. For example, when I rented a car in the USA, I received quotes from $1500 - $9000 for the same car from the same car hire company. If I didn't know better I might have ended up paying a lot more than I needed to (not that I'd ever spend $9000 on car rental, sheesh!) There are also community sourced car rental schemes, so explore the options available at your destination.
Top tip: 
If you are browsing travel websites and search a second time, you may notice the price jumps up! This is often accompanied by an urgent flashing message stating that there's only a few seats/vehicles/rooms left. This may be the case, but just for fun, try clearing your cookies or searching again in another browser. You may be surprised to see the price go back down to the original quote. Don't get caught in the travel-buying panic trap!

The options you have for accommodation will vary wildly based on your budget. Regardless of your budget though, here are some budget-friendly tips so you can spend your hard-earned elsewhere.

If you have friends in high places, or just desirable places, consider staying with them (if it's mutually agreeable) and be absolutely sure to show them the same hospitality in return! Always be a good houseguest and consider a generous thank you gift for their kindness.

This may work best if you're a single traveler, but there are websites such as that will hook you up with a couch! Make sure you check the person's reviews and feel comfortable before committing to staying with a stranger - and be prepared to meet some new friends.

It can be cheaper than a hotel to look at community sourced accommodation such as Airbnb. An added benefit is seeing the destination from a more local and personal perspective than you would get at many hotels.

For more luxury accommodation, there are several options to get the most out of your budget and experience. If your hotel is part of a chain, become a member to access exclusive discounts, points, rewards and extras such as included breakfasts and free stays. There are several hotel deal websites. I've personally used Jetsetter, which offers exclusive discounts to a few hotels each week. If you're travelling a lot, the stars may align (or you might snaffle a short getaway close to where you live). We stayed in a few fancy hotels in the USA that we wouldn't have even considered without this site.

I always purchase travel insurance. While it seems like a drag, I think it's essential, especially when you are travelling by plane (or other expensive transport). Also, if you're in an unfamiliar place or foreign country, you get peace of mind that if something goes wrong, you'll be covered. Something I always do when purchasing insurance is throughly read the fine print (boring, I know). It's important to understand exactly what you are covered for, and what the excess charges will be if you need to make a claim. I'll also double check that my belongings I'm taking with me are sufficiently covered, especially my laptop and camera gear. There are often item limits on what you can claim, so make sure nothing you take exceeds these individual limits. At the end of the day, insurance is inexpensive, especially when you weigh it up against the cost of rebooking flights, replacing lost/stolen belongings or paying medical bills. Southern Cross Travel Insurance offer great deals on insurance, you can visit their website to get a quote on your next trip. Most insurance covers you from the date of purchase, so I usually purchase mine as soon as I buy my tickets so that if anything goes wrong before I leave, I am covered.

While You're There

If you don't mind flying by the seat of your pants, try booking at the last minute. Hotels can offer great discounts in order to fill a room when they receive cancellations or are having a quiet night. I think my best coup was scoring an enormous room at a Sheraton Hotel in Japan for just over $100. I think the room was bigger than my house! Much more extravagant than my usual accommodation but a memorable experience created by not having a plan.

It's tempting to treat yourself every day when you're on holiday, but you can save a lot of money by self-catering. If your hotel has a kitchenette, consider making a packed lunch before you head out for the day. I love exploring supermarkets in new places, so it's a good excuse to immerse yourself in the local atmosphere and get supplies at the same time!

Remember, you're on holiday. If you can plan ahead with the big-ticket items, you can save a lot of financial stress while you're trying to enjoy yourself. Even if you're a planner, try to leave a few things up to chance, you might be surprised by a small bed and breakfast that you find when you make a wrong turn, or discover a town you didn't see on the map. If you have too rigid plans, you miss these neat surprises. So don't sweat the small details, cover the big stuff and everything else will fall into place.

Do you have any tips for saving on vacation costs?


Travel Budget Tips | Making Time For a Break

After finances, the biggest reason people tell me they don't take a holiday is because they don't have time. You may only receive a small amount of time off each year, or if you run your own business, it can be really difficult to make time for vacations.

In Australia, we have a fairly good paid holiday standard. Full time workers get 4 weeks off each year. I remember when I walked from Canada into the USA, I was mercilessly quizzed by border control. After establishing that no, I wasn't trying to illegally enter the U.S. to work, the topic moved onto why I was in the U.S. and how I was paying for it. It took me a good 30 minutes to convince the guy that yes, I was having 6 weeks paid vacation (I didn't have a holiday in over 2 years, so I had leave saved up). He was not surprised, he flat out thought I was lying. I know in the States, most people get one week paid vacation leave (am I right?) This makes travel really tough, so I'll try to consider everyone's circumstances in this advice.

Options for full-time workers

When I worked full time, I was very interested in getting as much vacation time as I could. If you work for a larger company, it may be worth speaking to colleagues who have been there for awhile, or making an appointment with Human Resources to have a chat about your options. For example, I found out as I was working a certain number of Sundays a year, I was entitled to 5 weeks leave instead of the standard four! They did not tell me this (they never would!) I heard it through the grapevine and made an enquiry. I also found out that since I was a supervisor on certain shifts, I could be paid at a higher rate for those shifts. Again, they didn't tell me, I had to do the research myself.

Find out ways that you might be able to get some extra time off. Some companies allow unpaid leave, others have schemes that allow you to take time off for travel if it will be beneficial to your job. You may need to attend a conference while you're away, or do some research, but you might just score some bonus holiday time too! Consider working overtime in exchange for time in lieu, or ask if you can work on public holidays in exchange for an extra day off at a more convenient time (i.e. for when you take a holiday!)

Another company I worked for offered a program where, for four years, they subtracted a small percentage of your income, and you could take the fifth year off work, paid. This was incredible, though a little too much of a long-term commitment for me! But if you love your company and your job, this kind of thing would be perfect. Imagine getting paid for a whole year to travel?! If you don't love your job, you can always make your own scheme, sacrificing a percentage of your pay each year that will eventually be enough to live off for a period of time.

Options for casual (no paid holiday) workers and business owners

First off, how annoying is it when you don't have paid holidays? I know when I worked casually (for years), I avoided holidays because I thought I needed to keep working to get more money for... living. I was once told by a uni teacher that everyone lives 10% above their means. No matter if they earn $5 an hour or $500, they will always overextend their finances by 10%. I'm not sure how scientifically accurate that is, but it is food for thought. I know when I was at uni, I indulged in the pot noodle diet (or the boiled rice with that Chinese hot chilli oil on it?!) and now that I have more extra disposable income, I might choose organic vegetables instead. We make choices that fill out our income, and if we are conscious of it, we can make different choices that will leave us with a little extra in each pay check.

When you know that you are not going to receive paid leave, factor that in to your lifestyle choices. Make it possible to take 2 weeks off work (for example) and not be in financial trouble. When I know I am going away, I start to pay my bills in advance, so that while I am away, and the first month after I get back, I know that everything is in credit and I won't be stressing out trying to get paid or find work in a hurry (now that I freelance full time).

 When you just can't get extra time off

Even if you can only spare a day or two off from your work, use them wisely. Look out for groupings of public holidays. Sometimes you can end up with a string of nearly 2 weeks off while only using 3-4 holiday days. Apply for the leave early though, because others will have the same idea!

If all else fails, take a weekend break. You'd be surprised at how refreshing one night away can be, or even just a day trip outside of your normal surroundings. A short break can be really worthwhile, so don't forget that this can be a perfect solution when you're short on vacation time.

Do you have any insider secrets on scoring extra leave? Or any suggestions on how to maximise the time you have? Let us know in the comments below.

You can read the previous posts on creating a savings plan here (intro) and here (action plan).


Travel Budget Tips | Saving For A Holiday

Kitty & Buck | Easy Budget Tips to Save for a Vacation

If you missed the introductory post on working out your budget, take a look over there first, we'll wait for you, don't worry!

If you ever think that you can't afford a holiday, or you're just after some tips to help you save, this series is for you. We'll be covering budgeting, saving, tricks for spending less when you're on holiday and a bunch more. I hope you join me, and more importantly, I hope you get a nice holiday out of it!

OK, so you have your budget worked out. Do you have any money left over for the month? If you do, you're already ahead of the game! I recommend opening a high interest savings account or a term deposit where you can store your holiday funds. Personally, I prefer the savings account so I can access the funds without penalty in case of emergency, but if you think you'll be tempted to dip into them, perhaps a term deposit where they are 'locked' is safer! Look at the pros/cons of each and see which is best for you.

If you don't have any leftover funds in your budget, or very little, lets look at ways you can save on what you are spending currently. First, look at your monthly budget and organise your expenses into "Essentials", "Nice To Have" and "Totally Unnecessary" (This excellent method comes from Paid To Exist).

Totally Unnecessary

Right away, you can remove the "Totally Unnecessary" expenses. You don't need to spend that money. Trust me. Redirect those funds into your savings plan.

Nice To Have

Can you remove any of these items from your spending? Or reduce the amount you spend on them? I'm always amazed on the street style interviews when they ask someone how much they spend a month on clothes, and often, it's more than my annual budget! Look carefully at your "nice to haves" and pare down your spending where you can. Get creative and figure out how to save on them without killing your social life entirely.
  • Can you reduce your eating out experiences to once a month instead of once a week?
  • Can you have a movie night with your friends at home instead of going to the cinema?
  • Could you try eating at the local noodle house instead of a fancy restaurant?
  • Would you try hiking or a picnic in lieu of a paid leisure activity?
  • Are there free cultural events in your community?
Tweet me or comment below with your cheap/free social activity ideas!

The Essentials

You obviously can't stop spending money on these, and I'm sure they make up the bulk of your spending. Let's look at ways we can reduce the spending on essentials.

1. Rent/Mortgage
While it might seem drastic, are you paying more than you need to on this? Are you willing to sacrifice convenience, location, size or even renting your spare room out to save money? It might be worth considering.

2. Utilities
Look at your consumption. Can you cut back on the amount of hot water you use by showering at the gym or at work? Are you leaving appliances on at night that are sucking extra electricity? Can you offset heating/cooling costs by being a little more energy efficient in your home? Is it possible to downgrade your phone plan or internet plan?

3. Groceries
Look for coupons and shop for things on sale. If you see something that you use often on sale, pick up a couple extra and keep them in storage (like toothpaste, toilet paper, coffee etc).

Plan your shopping and don't impulse buy. Each week I do a meal plan, write a list and buy only what I need (aside from the specials mentioned above).

Try getting your fresh produce at a farmers market, if you go just before closing time, you're likely to get excellent deals as the vendors are packing up for the day.

Buy in bulk and compare prices. You can save a lot of money without sacrificing the quality of food that you're eating.

Make extra for dinner and take leftovers for lunch the following day. Or, prepare your lunch the evening before so that you're not tempted to spend big on a cafe lunch at work.

I try to make recipes that recycle ingredients - so if I need a quarter of a pumpkin for one recipe, I make something else that week that will use the rest of the pumpkin. It saves money and reduces waste too.

4. Medication
I don't recommend trying to save money here, aside from shopping around. Some pharmacies offer much better prices than others. Even prescription medication prices can differ greatly between pharmacies. In Australia we can choose generic brands instead of the name brands. They are cheaper and I'm assured they are exactly the same product.

5. Insurance
This is another thing I wouldn't cut out. When I reduced my spending, I kept my insurances as they were. One thing to do though, is shop around and make sure you are still getting a good price, especially if you've been with one provider for a long time. You may be able to switch companies and get the same level of insurance for less. Or you can get a quote and ask your current provider to match it, you'l find most of the time they will reduce your premium to keep your business.

6. Banking
Make sure you are getting the best rates on any loans that you may have. As with insurance companies, banks will often match prices to keep your business, so shop around and do the research. It's ideal to pay off your credit cards each month, but if that's not possible, you should definitely look at doing a low/no interest balance transfer to pay off your debt. Avoid spending on your credit card unless you can pay it off each month. As with loans, shop around for the best interest rates.

Even more ways to reduce your spending and save!

1. Clothing
Look at your shopping choices carefully. It would be rare, if you really examined the situation, that you NEED a new pair of shoes, lipstick, dress etc. Be strong, and try to avoid any additional spending in this area. If you have to stop visiting online shops or the mall, please do. At the end of the day, a holiday is so much more rewarding than an overflowing wardrobe. I generally only purchase clothing on sale, or I look at secondhand items that might be cheaper (and often better quality than the chain stores) Remember, if you don't need it, dont buy it!

2. Entertainment
I touched on it above, but try to think of cheaper (or free) ways to socialise. You don't need to spend lots to have fun. Consider a gathering at home, have a pot luck dinner with friends or go on a picnic. Visit museums or free cultural events in your city/town. Go for a hike. Build a pillow fort and have homemade popcorn with a bunch of friends. There are tonnes of ideas that won't break the budget.

3. Gym
This is definitely a nice to have and non-essential. I didn't want to give up my gym membership though, so I downgraded it to local clubs instead of it being worldwide/Australia-wide. I also entered a new contract in order to get a health fund discount. While I had to sign on for two more years, it was worth it for the discount, and the fact I wasn't planning on leaving the gym anyway.

4. Work more
This is not ideal, obviously. But if you work fulltime, perhaps you can take on the odd freelance job here and there (I did this and paid for my holidays with a couple of extra hours work a week). If your budget cannot be stretched further, perhaps this is an option. I don't want you to be pulling double shifts. Please. But perhaps a shift once a week at a coffee shop or offering services in your area of expertise may be a way to gather a little extra cash.

5. Sell stuff
If you have a lot of excess 'stuff' perhaps you can sell some. You might be able to get a few hundred dollars together by selling things you have in storage and are not even using, like extra furniture, old sporting equipment, baby supplies you no longer need, books and more!

There are definitely more ideas on how to save money, I'd love to see your tips in the comments.