Last weekend I took part in a good friend’s wedding. Rather than a shrine or church, he and his bride-to-be chose Yoyogi Park for their nuptials. The simple ceremony surrounded by friends got me wondering about Japan’s wedding industry, a massive money-making machine that feeds off tradition and class distinctions that in past years few questioned. Was my friend’s stripped-down ceremony indicative of a movement spurred on by the recession, or was Japan’s “Marital Industrial Complex” unaffected by the economy?
It turns out that weddings are considered by many to be one of the few recession-proof
industries here. Even movie theaters and the yakuza want in on the action. Hiroshi Nagasaki at Livedoor writes that although marriages are happening less frequently and later in life, the actual price tag for a wedding is going up. Even the average wedding dress price rose by 18%. And the industry could grow even stronger if same-sex couples were legalized here, argues Luxist.
While marriage rates are definitively lower than a decade ago, questions about interest in marriage send off mixed signals. What Japan Thinks shows young Japanese women showing little interest, but there are plenty of sources stating clearly that “kon-katsu” (marriage hunting) is alive and on the rise. Ameba News considers matchmaker agencies to be another recession-proof industry, right up there with designer bag rental services, where office ladies who can’t actually afford that Louis Vuitton can still flaunt one at the next wedding they attend.
Adamu at Mutant Frog points to pricey weddings exposing Japan’s growing economic disparity, but that this cost is offset by parental support and the cash gifts your guests are obligated to bring. Those without a large network of friends and family may be out of luck, especially those with a bun already in the oven (“shotgun marriages” count for at least a quarter of all new marriages, according to J-cast).
I’m still looking into Japanese “DIY” weddings and welcome your input. When my wife and I hear of our friend’s wedding expenses, we tend to measure the price in terms of months in Thailand (as in “Do you know how many months we could spend in Thailand for that amount of money?”).? Reading Phil Brasor’s recent analysis on Naomi Kawashima’s wedding last month had us fantasizing about winter homes in Krabi and Chiang Mai, with a driver, live-in help and a personal masseuse. Economic disparity indeed.