File No. 894.4054/16¾
The Japanese Ambassador to the Secretary of State
Washington , June 4, 1917 .
Sir: In the note you did me the honor to address me under date of May 7, 1917, you are good enough to advise me of the decision of the Department of Labor to the effect that a certified copy of the record of the registrar, supplemented by a certified copy of the notification of a marriage with the signature and seal of the party residing in this country, will be accepted as sufficient evidence of a marriage in the so-called Japanese “picture bride” cases.
With a view to comply with the wishes of the United States Government, the Japanese Foreign Office has conferred with the Japanese Department of Justice which has jurisdiction over the family registry affairs to arrange for the issuance of the copy of the record of the family registry in favor of the so-called “picture brides” planning to proceed to the United States. In the attempt to enforce the new arrangement, the Department of Justice has found itself confronted with certain technical difficulties incidental to the fact that it has never before been required to issue the copy of the original notification in order to certify to the legal validity of a marriage, the copy of the record of the family registry part of which forms the conclusive proof of acceptance by the local registrar of the notification of a marriage, either verbal or written, having always been held as the only necessary document for that purpose. Such being the case, [Page 854] while the Department of Justice was expediting investigations as to the manner in which the required papers were to be issued, it was found that several weeks would be needed for the completion of the new arrangements. It was in these circumstances that I had the honor to address to you, under instructions from Tokio, my note dated May 18 requesting to have prolonged the period of exemption from the literacy test of the so-called “picture brides” on the condition that the certified copy of the notification would be furnished at a later date, to which you were good enough to reply, under date of May 28, communicating to me the impossibility of making such arrangement on the part of your Government on the ground that it would establish a precedent preferential to the Japanese “picture brides” which the United States Department of Labor could ill afford to Jet stand.
In Japan the family registry record serves to attest conclusively to the legality of a marriage; whereas, in this country, lacking a similar system of registry, more importance is, I understand, attached to the certificate of marriage. Every Japanese subject is required by law to register his or her name in family groups, the date of birth and all family relations, in the family registry record, which is kept at the family registry office governing the district where the parties concerned have their permanent domicile, and the party concerned or any third party may at any time apply for a certified copy of the record which can be obtained in two forms, either a complete record of one family or an excerpt in reference to a particular member thereof. There not being provided for in the Japanese law or custom the issuance of the marriage certificate and there obtaining throughout the Empire a complete system of family registry as alluded to hereinbefore, the certified copy of the family registry record corresponds for all legal and practical purposes to the marriage certificate of Western nations.
Such being the theory of the issuance of the copy of the family registry record, and moreover the issuance of the copy of the notification of a marriage involving technical difficulties as stated above, I have now the honor to request, pursuant to instructions from Viscount Motono, that such copy of the family registry record may be regarded by the United States Government as falling within the scope of “other convincing proof of the performance of the marriage ceremony” provided for in the Immigration Rules of May 1, 1917; and that the so-called “picture brides” be exempt from the operation of the literacy test on the strength of the certified copy of the family registry record, and without the presentation of the copy of the notification.
I am also instructed to add that in case the American Government deems it difficult to comply with the present request of the Japanese Government for any reason arising from the technicalities of the immigration rules, the Japanese Government is prepared, with a view to meet the requirements as fully as possible under the different systems of civil law obtaining in our two countries, to inaugurate an arrangement for issuing at the hands of the local registrar a certificate attesting to the legal validity of a marriage in favor of the “picture brides” planning to proceed to the United States.