• Kyodo

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Instead of posing at the altar, Kosuke Nakamikawa, a junior high school teacher in Nishitokyo, and his wife, Mai, opted to go on a wedding photo tour featuring a World Heritage site with traditional wooden houses with steep roofs in Nanto, Toyama Prefecture.

“It is a rare occasion, being able to take photos at a historical site,” the bride said with a smile during the August photo shoot. They held the wedding ceremony the following month.

The couple, both 28, were on a wedding photo tour organized by Seibu Travel, a Toyama-based travel agency trying to cash in on the March debut of the extended Hokuriku Shinkansen Line, which now links Tokyo to the Sea of Japan prefectures of Toyama and Ishikawa, along with Niigata. Customers have their choice of location.

The tour is becoming popular with couples who skipped wedding ceremonies for financial reasons or want to be photographed somewhere different from where they got married.

Photo services for couples in wedding attire began more than a decade ago but have seen a rise in demand over the past few years, according to the Bridal Institutional Association.

Given the decline in marriage and the rise in couples refraining from hosting costly wedding ceremonies, wedding organizers are nudging couples to opt for wedding photos instead.

Riding the trend, some companies are offering a similar services targeted at tourists who want to be photographed wearing kimono.

In addition to standard studio photos, popular itineraries include sessions along the seashore in Okinawa, at castle ruins and places in Kyoto where historical sites are abundant.

Kobe-based wedding photographer Lec says it caters to about 10,000 couples each year. Seibu Travel says inquiries are on the rise.

“Even though Toyama became closer for people in Tokyo thanks to the shinkansen, there are still landscapes here that haven’t become tourist spots yet,” said Seibu Travel President Hiroshi Murata. “I hope to (offer customers) photo opportunities at places where they normally can’t go.”

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