CHIBA--A ceremony was held here Jan. 29 for Japan’s first partnership system that targets both sexual-minority and opposite-sex couples, the Chiba city government said.

Six couples submitted written oaths to show they are life partners and received partnership certificates from Chiba Mayor Toshihito Kumagai.

Although the partnerships are not legally recognized marriages, the certificates provide certain rights to the couples, such as living together in city-run apartments.

Ryuta Yanase, 56, who made his oath with his partner, Satoru Ito, 65, said, “I was longing for the system, and I am very happy.”

The gay couple moved to the city from Funabashi in the same prefecture in autumn last year after hearing about the certificate system.

“I hope this society becomes a place where LGBT people are treated fairly,” Yanase said.

Yuki Kaneda, 39, made her oath with her male partner, 58, one of the two opposite-sex couples at the ceremony.

Some opposite-sex couples do not want to be officially wed and remain in de facto marriages without the benefits that come with legal marriages. The Chiba city certificate system gives them some of those rights.

“I had difficulty explaining our de facto marriage up until now,” Kaneda said. “I feel relieved that I can more easily prove it from now on.”

According to the city, couples eligible for the certificates must both be over 20 years old, live in the city or plan to move to the city, and meet other requirements.

The partnership certificate system started in Tokyo’s Shibuya and Setagaya wards in 2015.

So far, 10 municipalities have introduced such systems, while the central government remains reluctant to take up the issue of legalizing same-sex marriages.

Chiba is the fourth government-designated major city to adopt the certificate system, following Sapporo, Fukuoka and Osaka, and the first to allow opposite-sex couples to obtain the certificate.