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History of Japanese Marriage

During the age of aristocracy, “Muko-iri” was the common marriage system in Japan. A bridegroom would nightly visit his bride at her home. Only after the birth of a child or the loss of his parents would be the bride be accepted as the wife in the man’s home. Among common people labour power was and essential factor to maintain a family. A bridegroom would live with his bride’s family to offer his labour for a certain length of time. The practice remains today in the system of adoption by which a man becomes a member of another family by marriage.

WPicture of Japanese weddingith the rise of “Bushi” warriors, the system of women marrying into men’s families called “Yome-iri” was gradually adopted and widely accepted in the 14th century and on. Under the feudal system marriages were often used as political and diplomatic approaches to maintaining peace and unity among feudal lords. Thus the personal will of men and women for marriage was ignored in the face of family interests and the social intercourse of unmarried persons was denied. Marriages came to be arranged by and for families and the role of “Nakodo” go-between became very important in Japan. Now this “Yome-iri” system is quite common in Japan and you can find the traditional procedure in the contemporary marriage.

Throughout history, Japanese marital systems had gone through many changes along with changes in Japanese social systems and conditions. The most important and historical change in the Japanese marital system was brought about through the rise of “bushi” warriors in the 13th and 14th centuries. The change from the age of aristocracy to the age of the shoguns led to a change from the old practice of “muko-iri” to the new practice of “yome-iri”. That is, instead of the groom joining the bride’s family (“muko-iri”), the bride would join the groom’s family (“yome-iri”) after the birth of a child or the loss of a parent.

Uchikake - Wedding kimono

You can see the additional photos of wedding kimonos and traditional Japanese weddings in the Japan Picture Gallery.

Under the feudal system, marriages were often used as political and diplomatic means to maintain peace and unity among feudal lords. The young men and women of the day did not have a say in choosing their partners in marriage. Rather, a matchmaker would arrange marriages on behalf of both families. Thus, the role of a “nakodo” (a matchmaker) was established in Japan.

It is interesting to note that a young man had more say in choosing his own bride during the age of aristocracy. A young man would typically visit the young lady of his choice at her home. If the young woman’s parents approve of their union, the young man would be invited to a ceremony termed “tokoro-arawashi” and offered “mochi” rice cakes. This ceremony was deemed to be the most important function in ancient weddings among aristocrats.

Similarly among the common people, a young man would visit the parents of the lady and asked her parents for her hands in marriage. Labour played an essential role in life of the common people. Labour practices vary from places. In certain areas of Japan, such as the Tohoku area in the north, a groom would live with his bride’s family to offer his labour for a certain length of time. While in other parts of the country such as the Izu Islands, a wife would work for the family of her husband while her husband would offer his labour to her family. It is worth noting that such labour arrangement is still being practised to this day in marriages where the man is adopted into the family of the bride upon marriage. A third and more common family labour arrangement was for the groom and the bride to offer their labour to their respective families. In such a case, the husband would visit his wife nightly to maintain their union in marriage.

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Last edited on 27/09/06 : Copyright 2001 – 2006 Mi Marketing Pty Ltd. ACN 098 375 145 trading as Japanese LifeStyle. All Trademarks belong to their respective owners.