10 important Japanese Cultural facts about Marriage in Japan!

Published November 26th, 2021

In our current day and age, marrying someone of a different race is totally normal. However, because cultures are so different, it can lead to a few culture shocks. One of the more commonly known culture shocks when it comes to Japan is when it comes to marriage.

There are some things about Japanese marriage that are not common in other cultures. So, to shed some light on the matter, especially for those who are keen on getting into one, we’re going to look at the top 10 Japanese marriage culture facts!

1. Arranged marriages still exists

Even though Japan is very modernised, the custom of arranged marriages still happens. Sometimes, the first day you meet someone is also when they become your legally wedded husband or wife. Your parents can pick a wife for you, even though you can definitely pick one for yourself.

2. San-san-kudo

During the wedding ceremony, there’s an event called the san-san-kedo. This is where the pair show their sign of fidelity to each other by sipping sake three times from three different cups. It’s believed that when they take their first sip, they officially become spouses.

3. Hiring actors to be family is normal

It might sound strange, but it’s completely okay to hire actors to play as family members at the ceremony. Image is so crucial in Japanese culture, so it might look bad if your side doesn’t have that many people. There’s a special service for this actually. These actors will cheer for you, greet your other guests, and greet you just like your own family.

4. Guests get gifts

In Japan, sometimes guests get gifts during the wedding. The bride and groom will give back to the wedding guests whether it’s in the form of a physical gift or money. It’s believed that a gift is given as a way to share happiness on top of giving back.

5. There are horns on the bride’s outfit

Wedding outfits are important in Japanese weddings. The groom is usually in all black, wearing the traditional kimono and pleated hakama trousers. This is topped off with a family haori jacket.

The bride is in a white kimono and accessories. The most eye-catching of the outfit is the elaborate headgear that’s voluminous. Sometimes, it can be a wig, sometimes it can be a big hat. Regardless of what it is, it’s often decorated with horns that are very well hidden by a white veil. This represents jealousy and hiding it shows that she will not be jealous.

6. You can marry a virtual program in Japan

You read the title right. In Japan, you can marry a virtual program. You can marry your anime pillow, a stuffed animal, or even a hologram. A guy recently married a hologram of Hatsune Miku, who is a worldwide famous singer. He had a proper wedding and all, with his family, friends and colleagues.

7. Japanese weddings are expensive…for everyone

This is the one I hear most often. Japanese weddings are expensive not only for the couple but for everyone. Guests are expected to bring wedding gifts in terms of cash, and depending on where they are in the country, the amount differs. It can be up to 50,000 yen for relatives! There’s a phrase commonly used for this type of thing: “poor from celebrating”.

It is very different from European and American weddings where wedding gifts come in the form of housewarming items.

8. The wedding day is not the anniversary date

Usually, a wedding is celebrated during the registration of a marriage. So your wedding day is your anniversary day. This is pretty common worldwide. In Japan, it’s not always the case. You can register one day, and celebrate your marriage a year after! It’s common in Japan to have the wedding ceremony after the registration of the union. However, the anniversary date is then the registration date and not the wedding day.

9. Japanese law states that married couples must have the same surname

In some countries, like in Europe and America, surnames can be double barrelled. For example, if Mary Johnes married Bob William, she could be Mary William-Johnes, or Mary Johnes-William.

In Japan, there is a law and incredible social pressure for women to take their husband's last names. Family lineage is extremely important in Japan, and record keeping is very strict. As everywhere, a woman must completely change her name on all legal documents and with all government institutions, which is a laborious task that new generations are fighting to change. 70% of Japanese people want the ability to keep their own names, but it keeps getting voted down in the government. In rare instances, a man will be the one to take the women's name, this usually includes the man being officially "adopted" into that other family and losing all ties to his own legally. This is done typically when the woman's family has a higher standing or more money.

10. Common-law marriage is not a norm

In many countries, common law marriages are the norm. You don’t have to get married but you can still come under the same laws as a traditional marriage for situations like taxes and housing.

In Japan, there’s no such thing. You’re not accepted as a marriage unless you have the whole shabang of a traditional wedding. You can’t get the same rights as a traditional marriage if not. For example, you won’t be able to sign off on any medical related issues because it’s difficult to prove the family relationship as a spouse.

Which cultural fact surprised you the most?

Japan still follows traditional customs when it comes to marriage, as you can tell, even though the country is pretty modernised in other parts. These are just a few things you have to take note when dealing with a Japanese marriage, whether you're going into one yourself or attending a ceremony. Regardless, which Japanese marriage cultural fact is the most important surprising to you