Marriages in Japan - Culture, Requirements, and More

As with many other things, the concept of marriage and its corresponding procedures are different in Japan compared to Western countries. Although some similarities and basic principles may remain the same, the bigger pictures of each rarely resemble one another.

Nonetheless, marriage is a sacred act of union that is recognized in any country, whether it be between two people of the same nationality or not. For those planning to get married in Japan, it is vital that the standard customs, regulations, facts, and additional documents be studied well to avoid any possible complications in the future.

Marriage Culture in Japan

Similar to China, India, and Israel, arranged marriages are quite common in Japan. During ancient times, marriage was viewed in Japan as a way of continuing family lines in a practical manner that would be beneficial to both parties.

Although a big percentage of the Japanese community has evolved to adapt to the modern times, some households still observe the old traditions. As such, foreigners planning to marry a Japanese citizen should prepare to possibly be heavily scrutinized by his/her partner’s family. Of course, this is not applicable to all situations but is a good thing to keep in mind, just in case.

Other concerns that foreigners, especially the women, may want to take note of due to the country’s ancient customs and history include:

  • Some Japanese men prefer to marry women younger than them, in order to feel superior in terms of wisdom and experience.

  • Some Japanese men expect the women to take responsibility for all housework tasks.

  • Some Japanese men prefer women with a more obvious sense of femininity.

Consequently, men foreigners should keep the following things in mind:

  • Some Japanese women can get quite aggressive when it comes to inequality in marriage and tend to have strong personalities.

  • Some Japanese women expect the men to solely provide for the household.

  • Some Japanese women expect the men to win the hearts of their family members.

Interestingly, with more and more Japanese women finally having the right to education, the population of Japan is now on a constant decline. In addition, since a lot of Japanese men remain stuck in the old ways, many Japanese women are now considering international marriages or at least dating foreign men.

Standard Marriage Regulations/Requirements in Japan

Any two people who get married in Japan, be it a couple of foreigners, a couple of Japanese citizens, or a mix of both, will be officially recognized for their union in almost any country across the world. The main regulations for marriage in Japan are based on the Japanese Civil Code, particularly Articles 731 to 737.

These rules may be added to according to the requirements of some cities of wards but generally include the following statements:

  • The age of 18 serves as the legal marrying age for a man.

  • The age of 16 serves as the legal marrying age for a woman.

  • If either or both partners are not Japanese citizens, the legal marrying age/s for their respective country/ies will be followed, unless lower than that of Japan.

  • If either or both partners are younger than 20 years old, the respective parents or legal guardians must give their consent/approval of the marriage.

  • Siblings, cousins, or members of the same family tree are not allowed to marry one another.

  • All previous marriages should be terminated at least six months before registering for a new marriage.

  • Same-sex marriages are not allowed.

If a couple meets all the regulations above and are both Japanese citizens, the following steps should then be followed:

  • Get a certified copy of the family register (Koseki Shohon/Koseki Tohon) at the City Office or Ward Office (Kuyakusho/Shiyakusho) to serve as proof of marriage eligibility.

  • Fill up the Registration of Marriage Form (Kon In Todoke) and have it signed by two witnesses, complete with their registered seal/s (inkan).

  • Take the document to the local municipal government office and have the marriage registered. An amendment will be made to the family register and a Certificate of Acceptance of Notification of Marriage will be issued.

  • Amend/update other important documents, i.e. passports, land titles, etc.

Marriage Facts & Embassy Documents for Foreigners in Japan - US, UK, and Filipino Citizens

For mixed marriages or a marriage between two foreigners in Japan, only having a marriage ceremony at one of the country’s Shinto shrines, Christian chapels, or Tokyo wedding venues, be it ordained or not, will not be recognized in Japan as an official union.

A proper civil registration at the municipal government office similar to those processed by Japanese citizens is required.

The process is pretty much the same except for a few additional requirements such as:

  • Pay a visit to the relevant embassy. For those living outside of Japan, a visit to the Japanese embassy is advised.

  • Get a notarized Affidavit of Marriage Competency from the relevant embassy/law firm.

  • Foreigners should have their passports ready, while Japanese citizens must have their resident cards on hand.

  • Consult with the local City Office or Ward Office if any other documents should be provided, i.e. birth certificate, valid IDs, visa status, etc. Some may need/require that these documents be copied and translated to Japanese.

  • Take the documents to the local municipal government office and have the marriage registered. Fill up a Registration of Marriage Form (Kon In Todoke) and have it signed by two witnesses, complete with their registered seal/s if Japanese citizens.

  • A Certificate of Acceptance of Notification of Marriage will be issued and will serve as the only proof of marriage. As such, couples should make sure to take note of the name, address, and contact numbers of the office where they registered for future reference.

  • Apply for an immigrant visa, if applicable.

  • Amend/update other important documents, i.e. passports, land titles, etc.

Foreigners should also note that their respective home countries may have additional requirements after the marriage has been registered. Some important notes for US, UK, and Filipino citizens, for example, include:

  • The marriage does not have to be registered at the respective home country/ies for it to be recognized. However, in the case that a marriage certificate issued by one’s own government be required for other transactions, nothing can be submitted.

  • The Certificate of Acceptance of Notification of Marriage will serve as the only proof of marriage. For countries that do not accept this document written in the Japanese language, the couple is responsible for translating this document and having the translated copy notarized. Most countries have translation templates available online.

Accordingly, Japanese citizens planning to apply for immigrant visas should take note of the following requirements/steps:

For the US

  • Apply for a Family-Based Immigration Visa: Spouse (IR1/CR1) by filing a petition for the Alien Relative at the Department of Homeland Security USCIS (US Citizenship and Immigration Services).

  • After the petition has been approved by the USCIS, it will be sent to the NVC (National Visa Center) where it will be assigned a case number and further instructions for the applicant.

  • The petitioner and applicant will be instructed to pay the appropriate fees before submitting all the relevant documents, i.e. civil documents, Affidavit of Support, etc.

  • An interview will be scheduled once the NVC has confirmed that all the requirements have been met and all the documents have been submitted.

  • Additional medical examinations and vaccinations may be required to complete the application.

For the UK

  • Apply for a Family Visa online or in person.

  • Check online for the relevant documents/information and submit to the UK embassy.

  • Any previous civil partnerships or marriages must have proof that they have been officially ended.

  • Once approved, the Japanese partner will be granted to stay in the UK for two and a half years. Afterward, he/she must apply for an extension.

  • Japanese citizens may only apply to permanently settle in the UK after having lived in the country for five years.

For the Philippines

  • Apply for an Immigrant Visa by Marriage and Alien Certificate of  Registration Identity Card at the Bureau of Immigration.

  • Get two copies of the Consolidated General Application Form (CGAF) online and prepare the required documents for submission.

  • Important documentary requirements include a joint request letter by the petitioner and applicant, the accomplished CGAF, the marriage certificate, birth certificate of the Filipino citizen, valid ID of the Filipino citizen, and a photocopy of the applicant’s passport.

Weddings in Japan

Once the marriage has been registered and other relevant paperwork has been taken care of or at least taken note of, a couple may choose to have a traditional Japanese wedding or a Western one in Japan. Interestingly, a lot of Japanese couples choose to have two wedding ceremonies to keep in line with their roots and, at the same time, have a more fashionable and modern version.

Weddings at Shrines

Traditional Japanese weddings are normally held at local shrines and take up the whole day. June serves as the peak month for weddings in Japan, given its constant rain showers believed to bring tons of luck to the couple. There is also a fair amount of weddings held every month of January, a few days/weeks after the start of the new year.

According to tradition, the attendees of the wedding ceremony are limited to close family members and the supposed matchmakers of the couple, if applicable.

Formal black kimonos that feature colorful embroidery are worn by the mothers of the couple, while black suits paired with white ties are worn by the men. Wedding kimonos are worn by the bride and groom which come in white and black, respectively.

The priest of the Shinto shrine is in charge of overseeing the ceremony and guiding the couple through the purification, offering, and unification rituals.

After the wedding ceremony, the bride and groom are free to change into a different set of clothes for the reception. A brightly colored kimono is often worn by the bride, while a suit and tie are donned by the groom.

Weddings at Chapels, Churches, or Other Venues

Weddings may also be done at other venues besides Shinto shrines to meet the preferences of the couple. The majority of these weddings are considered to be Western-style ceremonies and rarely follow or observe the traditions of the typical Japanese wedding. As such, couples are pretty much free to proceed with their wedding according to their likes and dislikes.

However, couples should still make sure that all the aspects of their wedding remain respectful to the Japanese culture and lifestyle, as not to cause any possible problems.

Wedding Receptions

For traditional weddings, the tables/seating arrangement of the reception is often designed to fit in a tatami room, with the bride and groom having a separate head table to look over the entire party. Compared to the ceremony, the wedding reception is often quite massive in size.

For Western-style weddings, the receptions are pretty much the same as that of traditional weddings except for the seating arrangement or layout of the party. These receptions are often held in hotel ballrooms or massive halls and feature a lot of festive decorations.

Attending a Wedding in Japan

Similarly, guests of a wedding in Japan also have to take note of a few things in order to avoid disrespecting the couple or their family members:


It should go without saying that invited guests should RSVP to the wedding in order to properly inform the couple of their attendance. This way, the couple can properly reserve the appropriate number of seats and avoid having to deal with unnecessary problems on the day of their wedding.

Guests are not typically required to write a message along with their RSVP but may freely do so as long as words that imply things such as breaking, splitting, or cutting should be avoided.


Wearing a kimono to a wedding is definitely acceptable as long as it is formal and worn correctly. Otherwise, women can basically wear any gown or dress appropriate for the wedding which is not white or too revealing. The toes, shoulders, and knees should be kept hidden.

For the men, wearing a black, gray, brown, or other pleasantly-colored suit paired with a colored tie will do. Black shoes are also highly recommended.

Wedding Gift

When it comes to Japanese weddings, guests should make sure to bring monetary gifts instead of the usual household items given at Western-style weddings. The money must consist of crisp bills and must be placed in an appropriate envelope.

Depending on one’s relationship with the couple, the amount of money to be given varies. For colleagues or friends, the average gift comes to a total of 30,000 yen per person.