Visitors coming to Okinawa from abroad for “Legal Weddings” increasing rapidly

Visitors coming to Okinawa from abroad for “Legal Weddings” increasing rapidly

A Hong Kong couple receiving their marriage certificate at the Chura no Kyoukai resort in Ginowan November 21

November 22, 2018 Ryukyu Shimpo
By Ryota Nakamura

Couples that come to Okinawa from abroad to submit their wedding registration and receive their wedding certificates in civil ceremonies referred to as “legal weddings” continues to increase and is taking hold on the island. In 2017, there were 400 civil ceremonies involving visitors from abroad, up 2.5 times from the 2013’s total of 157. For couples, coming to Okinawa for a resort wedding and receiving a Japanese wedding certificate is seen as a status symbol. Over 90% of these civil ceremonies are couples from Hong Kong, where the Japanese marriage certificate is valid, and 2018 is looking to also be a strong year for those looking to have a destination wedding.

Okinawa began performing “legal marriages” 10 years ago, and the number of civil ceremonies has been gradually increasing ever since. Attracting mostly couples from Hong Kong who are enticed at events such as resort wedding fairs, Okinawa has made a specialty of such affairs and the numbers continue to rise. Through the first half of 2018 (Jan.-Jun.) there were 137 foreign-couple civil ceremonies. This has not quite reached the halfway mark of 2017, however the peak season for these wedding are in October and November, so expectations are that the second half figures will raise the total significantly.

In Hong Kong, a civil ceremony does not have to be performed in-country, and marriage certificates issued from Japan are popular. Of the 400 legal weddings in Okinawa in 2017, 388 of these involved couples from Hong Kong. For 2018 as well, 135 of the 137 weddings from the first half of the year were Hong Kong couples, accounting for an overwhelming majority of the total.

On November 21, a couple from Hong Kong, Kinsley Len, 35, and Silvia Kwan, 29, received their marriage certificate from Ginowan City Hall, after which they had their wedding reception at the Chura no Kyoikai (lit. “Beautiful Chapel”) run by the Good Luck Corporation in Ginowan. They had 25 guests of family and friends in attendance.

The couple saw the pictures of the sun and beaches of Okinawa as well as the beautiful chapel, and decided to have their wedding there after asking their families’ permission to have the civil ceremony. The two had visited big cities such as Osaka previously, but this was their first trip to Okinawa, and they stayed on the island for a week for sightseeing. They reflected happily, “We were moved by the beauty of the ocean. We want to come back in the summer to go swimming.”

(English translation by T&CT and Sam Grieb)

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