History[ edit ] The institution of marriage in Japan has changed radically over the last millennium. Indigenous practices adapted first to Chinese Confucianism during the medieval era , and then to Western concepts of individualism , gender equality , romantic love , and the nuclear family during the modern era.
Customs once exclusive to a small aristocracy gained mass popularity as the population became increasingly urbanized. Genji Monogatari Emaki , 12th century handscroll, Gotoh Museum. Heian society was organized by an elaborate system of rank , and the purpose of marriage was to produce children who would inherit the highest possible rank from the best-placed lineage.
It was neither ceremonial nor necessarily permanent. If a man saw the same woman for a period of three nights, they were considered married, and the wife's parents held a banquet for the couple. Most members of the lower-class engaged in a permanent marriage with one partner, and husbands arranged to bring their wives into their own household, in order to ensure the legitimacy of their offspring.
Aristocratic wives could remain in their fathers' house, and the husband would recognize paternity with the formal presentation of a gift. Edo period — [ edit ] "Wedding. Members of the household were expected to subordinate all their own interests to that of the ie, with respect for an ideal of filial piety and social hierarchy that borrowed much from Confucianism. Property was regarded to belong to the ie rather than to individuals, and inheritance was strictly agnatic primogeniture.
Although Confucian ethics encouraged people to marry outside their own group, limiting the search to a local community remained the easiest way to ensure an honorable match. Approximately one-in-five marriages in pre-modern Japan occurred between households that were already related. Marriage between a Japanese and non-Japanese person was not officially permitted until 14 March , a date now commemorated as White Day. Marriage with a foreigner required the Japanese national to surrender his or her social standing.
The purposes of marriage in the medieval and Edo periods was to form alliances between families, to relieve the family of its female dependents, to perpetuate the family line, and, especially for the lower classes, to add new members to the family's workforce. The seventeenth-century treatise Onna Daigaku "Greater Learning for Women" instructed wives honor their parents-in-law before their own parents, and to be "courteous, humble, and conciliatory" towards their husbands.
One British observer remarked, "If you love your wife you spoil your mother's servant. A proverb said, "Those who come together in passion stay together in tears.
Concubinage and prostitution were common, public, relatively respectable, until the social upheaval of the Meiji Restoration put an end to feudal society in Japan. During the Meiji period , upper class and samurai customs of arranged marriage steadily replaced the unions of choice and mutual attraction that rural commoners had once enjoyed.
Rapid urbanization and industrialization brought more of the population into the cities, ending the isolation of rural life. Public education became almost universal between and the early s, and schools stressed the traditional concept of filial piety, first toward the nation , second toward the household, and last of all toward a person's own private interests.
Marriage under the Meiji Civil Code required the permission of the head of a household Article and of the parents for men under 30 and women under 25 Article A visitor to Japan described the omiai as "a meeting at which the lovers if persons unknown to each other may be so styled are allowed to see, sometimes even to speak to each other, and thus estimate each others' merits.
Boys and girls were separated in schools , in cinemas, and at social gatherings. Colleagues who began a romantic relationship could be dismissed, and during the Second World War traveling couples could be arrested. Parents sometimes staged an arranged marriage to legitimize a "love match," but many others resulted in separation and sometimes suicide. A proposal by Baron Hozumi, who had studied abroad, that the absence of love be made a grounds for divorce failed to pass during debates on the Meiji Civil Code of Women learned that as a daughter they ought to obey their father, as a wife their husband, as a widow their sons.
Chastity in marriage was expected for women, and a law not repealed until allowed a husband to kill his wife and her lover if he found them in an adulterous act. The prostitution of women survived the periodic intrusion of puritanical ideals on Japan's less restrictive sexuality. During the Edo period, a husband could divorce his wife by writing a letter of his intent to do so, but a wife's only recourse was to flee to a convent. The laws of the early Meiji period established several grounds on which a man could divorce: A wife, accompanied by a close male relative, could appeal for divorce if she had been deserted or imprisoned by her husband, or if he was profligate or mentally ill.
The Civil Code established the principle of mutual consent, although the consent of women was still likely to be forced until the early twentieth century, as women gradually gained access to education and financial independence. Post-war period —present [ edit ] Signed after the surrender and occupation of Japan by Allied forces , Article 24 of the Constitution of reestablished marriage on grounds of equality and choice: With regard to choice of spouse, property rights, inheritance, choice of domicile, divorce and other matters pertaining to marriage and the family, all laws shall be enacted from the standpoint of individual dignity and the essential equality of the sexes.
The Constitution abolished the foundations of the ie system and the patriarchal authority at its heart. Each nuclear family retained, and still retains, a separate family registration sheet , initiated on marriage under the surname of the husband or wife, but the head of each household no longer had any special legal prerogatives over his or her dependents.
All legitimate children, male or female, gained an equal right to inheritance , putting an end to primogeniture succession and the obsession with lineage. Women received the right to vote and the right to request a divorce on the basis of infidelity. The Meiji emphasis on Confucian values and national mythology disappeared from education. A middle class ideology established a gendered family pattern with separate social spheres: Three in five couples meet in the workplace or through friends or siblings.
Demography of Japan According to the census, The decline of marriage in Japan, as fewer people marry and do so later in life, is a widely cited explanation for the plummeting birth rate.
Economic factors, such as the cost of raising a child , work-family conflicts , and insufficient housing , are the most common reasons for young mothers under 34 to have fewer children than desired.
Between and , the percentage of year-old people who had never married roughly quadrupled for men to As a result, Japan has largely maintained a gender-based division of labor with one of the largest gender pay gaps in the developed world , even as other countries began moving towards more equal arrangements in the s. The number of international unions rose rapidly in the s and 90s, peaked in at 44, about 1 in 16 , and has declined since then.
Filipino women saw the largest drop, from 12, in to 3, or Of the 15, non-Japanese brides in , most came from China The 6, grooms came from Korea Of the 1 million children born in Japan in , 2.
Domestic violence[ edit ] According to a summary of surveys by Japan's Gender Equality Bureau in , This violence almost always occurred after marriage. Dating abuse has also been reported by No ceremony is required under Japanese law. Since , couples have been permitted to choose either the surname of the husband or wife, consistent with a ban on separate surnames first imposed in The ban has survived several legal challenges on the basis of gender inequality , most recently in International marriages are subject to separate rules within Japan.
Foreigners in Japan do not have their own family registration sheet, and therefore those who marry a Japanese national are listed on his or her family's sheet. Illegitimate children were eligible for half the inheritance of legitimate ones until a court ruling in A common description of Japan's religious syncretism says: Japanese weddings usually begin with a Shinto or Christian-style ceremony for family members and very close friends before a reception dinner and after-party at a restaurant or hotel banquet hall.
The popularity of Christian wedding ceremonies represents new widespread acceptance, commercialization, and popularity of a religious ceremony. However, this self-identification is far from a wholesale rejection of religion, and often employed both to reject and affirm religious behaviors and identities.
Nonreligious individuals tend to rely on religious professionals and vicariously entrust specialized acts of prayer and ritual to religious authorities when desirable and appropriate. Along with various Buddhist and Shinto rites, Christian wedding ceremonies are now one of the occasions where nonreligious Japanese rely on religious professionals.
Nonreligious attitudes are responsible for significant transformations in Japanese Christianity and the bridal industry and the successful response of the Christian churches and the bridal industry to consumer demand has led to an explosion in Christian wedding ceremonies. In , Christians accounted for 1. Similarly, Christian religious organizations accounted for a mere 2. This data, along with an aging church population, led researchers to suggest that a marginal Christian population is headed for rapid decline.
However, these statistics on Christian affiliation do not account for the unprecedented popularity of Christian wedding ceremonies or address how nonreligiousness has altered Japanese Christianity.
The growing popularity of Christian weddings dates back to two events in the s. By the mids, Christian weddings surpassed Shinto weddings and, since , continue to be the wedding ceremony of choice among sixty to seventy percent of Tokyo couples with similar trends in popularity throughout the country.
Although frequently dismissed as bridal-industry activity, Christian churches and personnel were essential in the rise of Christian weddings and their popularity.
On 1 March , the Vatican granted the Japanese Catholic Church special permission to conduct wedding ceremonies for non-affiliated, non-Christian couples.
Nonreligious Japanese have access to this Catholic sacrament in a manner on par with baptized church members. These forms of access were instrumental in popularizing the Christian wedding in the late s and the s. In addition to new policies and approaches, the nonreligious demand for Christian weddings has given rise to new religious institutions and powerful partnerships between commercial and religious groups—occasionally blurring the lines between the two.
From humble beginnings, this non-denominational Evangelical Protestant Church—the first Christian organization devoted exclusively to the production of weddings—grew to national proportions. Currently, the Christian Bridal Mission has over one thousand ministers—making it one of the largest Christian organizations in Japan.
Where the active majority of people are nonreligious, mechanisms for establishing a convincing reference to Christianity takes on a sensual character. Although the Japanese have unprecedented access to the Catholic Church, the majority of weddings in Japan follow the Protestant liturgy.
As such the ceremony includes elements typical to a traditional Protestant wedding including hymns, benedictions, prayers, bible readings, an exchange of rings, wedding kiss, and vows before God. It is typical for a bride to enter with her father and then be "given away" to her husband—an exchange that usually involves bowing and shaking hands. In recent years, the custom of lowering the veil has also become popular.
During the veil lowering the mother of the bride lowers the veil for her daughter before she continues down the "virgin road" with her father toward her husband. In the case of a non-Japanese wedding minister, the ceremony is commonly performed in a mix of Japanese and a western language typically, English.
Non-religious or civil ceremonies[ edit ] Non-religious or civil ceremonies often take place in a banquet hall, before or during the reception party, with a Master of Ceremonies officiating and guests seated around tables. Although these ceremonies often adopt Western elements, especially a wedding dress for the bride and a tuxedo for the groom, they forego any religious connotations.
The guests consist primarily of the couple's friends, who pay an attendance fee.