Understanding the Marriage in Japan

Here is the original article in Japanese

The average age of first marriage in Argentina is around 30 years old for both men and women. Perhaps it's because the country doesn't place a high importance on marriage, or because there's no pressure from family, but many people prioritize their careers and choose to live together instead. How about in Japan?


I received a question about marriage in Japan from an Argentine friend, so this time I will discuss "the average age of first marriage and pressure to get married in Japan." I seriously looked into materials such as national census data and gathered information from friends in their 20s.

The average age of first marriage

First, I conducted a surprise interview with my best friends in their 20s, A-chan and Ryo-kun!

Tell me about your own feelings on marriage and those of your friends!
In my circle of friends, everyone eventually wants to get married, sooner or later.
About 70% of my friends are positive about getting married, while 30% feel like they have things they want to do and enjoy before settling down. Some of my married friends have mentioned that there are times when they feel lonely when they see photos of their friends hanging out together.
Do 30% of people not want to get married?
I think they eventually want to get married, but they might not be ready to take the plunge yet, considering their financial situation and personal interests.

I see, it seems that many people in their 20s are indeed positive about getting married, but various factors are preventing them from getting married just yet.A survey by the Ministry of Health, Labor and WelfareAccording to the 2021 data from Japan's average age of first marriage, it is 31 years old for husbands and 29.5 years old for wives.Both men and women have seen a 3-year increase since 26 years ago, and if the upward trend continues at the same pace, by 2100 the average age of first marriage would be 40 years old for husbands and 38.5 years old for wives.
As of 2020, the percentage of unmarried individuals at the age of 50 was 28.25% for men and 17.85% for women, and it is expected that these numbers will continue to rise in the future.

It seems that the trend of marrying later in life is progressing in Japan. How about the pressure to get married?

Pressure to get married

Once again, I conducted a surprise interview with A-chan and Ryo-kun!

What do you think about the pressure to get married?
I feel some pressure at the moment because I think that if I'm not married by the time I'm over 30, people might look at me strangely.
I occasionally feel it a bit from my partner (laughs).
That's the same in Argentina too.


This is a post about the "after-effects of marriage pressure." In Japan, many women are deeply hurt by casual comments about marriage from relatives, friends, or even strangers in their daily lives. While there are countries like Argentina that don't place a strong emphasis on marriage, why does Japan have such a strong fixation on it?

History of marriage in Japan

When did the concept of "marriage" begin in Japan? Let's take a look from ancient times since we're at it.

Jomon period: 14,000 BCE - 4th century BCE.

The Jomon period was a time when pottery was invented, making cooking possible and leading people to settle in one place. It is still not fully understood, but it is believed that Jomon people lived in pit dwellings with their families of around 5-6 individuals. Since most villages were small, it is thought that marriages mostly occurred between men and women from different villages to avoid inbreeding.Reference Site

Kofun period: mid-3rd century to around the 7th century.

During this period, many large burial mounds called "kofun" were constructed, and luxurious burial goods began to be buried alongside the deceased.During this period, a marriage style emerged where men would visit the homes of women. This was apparently a form of free love, but the couples lived separately. It is worth noting that the courtship was one-way, with men proposing to women.Reference Site

Heian period: 794-1185.

The Heian period was a time when Chinese culture was highly respected, and cultural prosperity was driven by the court and aristocracy.During the Heian period, marriage rituals began to emerge among the farming community. Men would visit women's homes and sometimes be discovered sleeping with them by the women's families. In response, the families would offer mochi rice cakes to the men, accepting them as part of the family. After marriage, the couple would live with the wife's family, marking a significant change in the format of marriage.Reference Site

Kamakura period: 1185-1333.

The Kamakura period is known as a time when samurai became the center of political power, and Japanese feudal society developed.During this period, it became more common for women to live in their husbands' homes, and family authority became concentrated in the hands of husbands. Political marriages were also frequently carried out among the warrior class and others.Reference Site

Edo Period, 1603-1868

The Edo period is known as a time when Japan experienced a long period of peace, thanks to the centralized rule of the Tokugawa shogunate. However, it was also a time when the caste system was established.During this period, marriage was considered as a form of business between families, and the relationship between husband and wife was considered equal. Couples did not take each other's family names and retained their own individual property rights.reference book:女性差別はどう作られてきたか

Meiji period: 1868-1912.

The Meiji period is known as a time when Japan underwent a major reform aimed at transitioning from a feudal society to a modern nation. In 1898, the "Meiji Civil Code" was enacted, and the "family" became an entity with the husband holding all the authority. Based on Confucianism, which emphasizes filial piety and loyalty, all family members, including wives, were required to use the same family name and were subject to the control of the husband/father. Women lost all their rights and property through marriage, and there were significant differences in the treatment of children based on gender and age.Reference Site

Showa period: 1926-1989.

1The Japanese family system that had lasted for 70 years was abolished by the Constitution of Japan, which was established in 1946, and individual respect and gender equality were emphasized. However, due to the rapid changes made during this short period, the legacy of the old family system continued to be deeply ingrained in Japanese society.Reference Site

Reiwa period: 2019-present Summary of Marriage and Pressure in Japan

Marriage culture in Japan has undergone a long history and continues to evolve to this day. While the current Japanese constitution promotes respect for individuals and gender equality, complete equality has not yet been achieved, as evidenced by the fact that spouses must have the same surname, the wage gap between men and women, differences in career opportunities, and division of household roles. It is against this backdrop that many women still suffer from the "pressure to get married". I sincerely hope that Japan and the world will become a place where no one discriminates against each other as soon as possible.

Actually, there is still a custom in which men ask for permission to marry a woman from her father.
Is that true? It sounds like something from 1950s Argentina! Back then, everyone got married around the age of 20, but things have slowly changed to what they are now. I hope that Japan will someday also be free from the pressure to get married.
Thak you very mush! I truly hope that such a day will come as well.

How was it? Please feel free to share stories about marriage in your country in the comments section!

English References:Ruth Benedict, "The Chrysanthemum and the Sword - Patterns of Japanese Culture",1946


Here is the original article in Japanese