How to start your own NPO

How to start your own NPO

Want to get involved but have no organization in your area that suits your goals? Why not create your own NPO in Japan? Starting your own NPO will take time and effort but the rewards are great! Japanese language is essential to fill in the application, so making an NPO is a good chance to join hands with like-minded Japanese people in your area.  

1 How do I Apply? Outline of making an NPO.

(1) Prepare the Application, in Japanese, and submit it to the local prefectural government office or to the ordinance-designated city. The application consists of 11 sections (see description below).

(2) Once submitted, some sections of the application, such as the Articles of Incorporation (teikan), will be open to the public. This is referred to as the Portfolio, or juuran (lit. inspection or reading). This takes about 2 months.

(3) Once submitted, the application will be reviewed for approval (ninshou) by the authorities within a four-month period. They will pore over every detail of the application both to ensure accordance with the law and that it is properly filled out. What do I do if the application is rejected? Don’t worry. If you have properly and fully completed each section of the application (and if you are not giving false information or breaking NPO laws), then the local authorities must approve it. They cannot reject you for personal reasons or simply disagreeing with the aims of your NPO.

(4) Once you receive the Certificate of Approval, you have done it! Well, not quite yet. Since the NPO is a non-profit organization, it has to be registered, just like a for-profit company must be. The next step then is to declare which type of organization you have founded to the Ministry of Justice. This is done in the jurisdiction of the Ministry’s branch office where your NPO is located. Registration will be approved within two weeks.

(5) If everything is in order, then you have really done it! Now you can receive an official Copy of Registration or prove your legitimacy just as any registered company can. The date when you applied for registration to the Ministry’s branch office becomes official date of your NPO’s establishment.

(6) One final step. Now that you are registered with the Ministry of Justice, you must inform the local authorities (the place where you submitted the original application). Congratulations!  

2 Where do I Submit the Application?

There is no special status in applying to the Office of the Cabinet! As described above, you can apply to either the local prefectural government or the ordinance-designated city. Apply to the government office where your NPO will be located. If you will house your office in Osaka, then apply with the Osaka prefectural government. This office is thereafter referred to the Office of Jurisdiction (shokatsu chou).

3 The Eleven Sections of the Application

Half are easily done, the other half takes some time and effort. Some of the documents can be downloaded(in Japanese)

(1) Application
Complete the document as required by the Office of Jurisdiction

(2) Articles of Incorporation
The “Constitution” of your NPO. Set the bylaws and explain the purpose of your organization.

(3) Directory of Officers
Lists the names, addresses, and salaries (if applicable) of the regents, auditors and other officers of your NPO.

(4) Consent and Oath
Officers must sign a form of consent and an oath not to break the NPO legal code.

(5) Proof of Residence
Officers must be able to prove the addresses given in the Directory are correct. They do this by submitting a residence card (juumin-hyo), which can be obtained from the city or locale where they reside. For foreign residents, refer to the Application Handbook described below.

(6) Directory of Members
You must have at least 10 members in your NPO. Provide their names and addresses.

(7) Written Confirmation
This document confirms that the NPO you wish to establish does not contravene the NPO law.

(8) Statement of Intent
This documents explains the purpose of your NPO as well as the background leading up to your application.

(9) Declaration
In this document, you must provide a transcript of the minutes which were recorded during the First General Meeting. During that meeting, the decision to establish the NPO must be stated. Base your account on available models.

(10) Activities
In this section, you must provide an outline of the activities that will be carried out during the first and second years of the NPO’s existence. Give a specific plan of the activities which will achieve the purposes described in the Articles of Incorporation. Have two years’ worth of planning ready.

(11) The Budget
Prepare a budget of income and expenses for the two years above. Nos. (1) (3) (4) (6) and (7) are relatively easy to complete. Nos. (2) (8) (9) (10) and (11) will take more time and hard work. No. (5) will be sent to you by officers in your NPO.  

4 Getting an Application Handbook

Once you have determined the location of your NPO, get a handbook (tebiki) from your “Office of Jurisdiction” (the prefectural office where you will apply). This will give you information on how to file your application. The Application form itself appears to be the same everywhere. However, read the application guidelines where you are applying very carefully.  

5 Writing the Application

The best thing to do is to copy an NPO application that has been approved. Many government offices now post downloadable application forms on the Internet. The link above will help you get started. As described above, some of the forms are relatively easy but others are not.
The Articles of Incorporation, especially the purpose and activities, Statement of Intent, Declaration, Activities, and Budget will become part of your public portfolio. In other words, you are able to see what others who started up NPOs have written in their applications and use those as samples for your own.
Anyone can inspect the portfolios at the government office. Find an NPO whose purpose is similar to your own and take notes from its portfolio. Chances are you will find many excellent examples that prove very helpful in making your NPO.