It’s been at least 115 years since Madame Butterfly was first rolled-out to music fans in Europe—a musical in which a Japanese woman marries an American sailor. It’s also been about 73 years since the end of WW2—which was a cease-fire marked by the number of international marriages taking place between Japanese nationals and Americans. And let’s not forget the 49 years since Yoko Ono decided to marry John Lennon! Add to that the countless numbers of international marriages we have around us nowadays between foreigners and Japanese people (as expressed by other people answering the question), and it should be almost self-evident that many Japanese people have no issues when it comes to choosing foreigners as their life partners.
Nevertheless, even though the number of Japanese international marriages has increased over the years, these marriages still make a tiny percentage of the total number of marriages in Japan. Why is that?
I agree with most of the information presented here by other people trying to answer the question—Japan, being an island nation, has less access to foreign nationals as, let’s say, a country like France would have. The lack of options should be enough reason for us to understand why the limited number of international weddings here in the land of the Rising Sun. But I would like to take another perspective in my answer and hopefully, this will further add to the discussion.
Why do some Japanese people want to marry foreigners?
This answer should be divided into 2 different categories: 1. Why women want to marry foreigners; 2. Why men want to marry foreigners. Since we see most of the earlier case rather than the latter—let me start by tackling number 1.
Most Japanese women that do want to marry foreigners do it for a myriad of reasons but, most prominently, they do it for the expected novelty and romance they hope to get out of the relationship. During my wedding ceremony here in Japan, my wife’s female guests kept telling her how envious they were of her because I seemed to be so romantic and caring…and that’s something they could not get from their Japanese husbands. Many women in Japan—and especially those who have had workaholic fathers and cold-hearted boyfriends—have been disillusioned with their male counterparts. Pop-culture has also played a huge role in influencing the minds of these women and they, sometimes falsely, believe that every foreign guy is a “lady’s first” type of gentleman, waiting to sweep them off their feet the moment they go on their first date—and for every other encounter they have, “till death do them apart”—kind of ordeal. Thanks to Hollywood and Korean dramas, most men not born in Japan have gotten the “prince charming” image going for them. This definitely facilitates the popularity international marriages currently enjoy in Japan.
There is also the factor that many Japanese marriages are in turmoil due to countless factors: from sexlessness to financial hardships, unfaithfulness and lack of time, Japanese marriages—like marriages in much of the developed world—are not in the best of shapes. Some Japanese women make the assumption that it is Japanese men’s fault the reason for so many marital issues in their society, which leads them to bet their chips on international marriages. As insinuated in my answer, the issues above are not only particular to Japan and they outline a far greater societal problem developed nations are facing (politics and economics are all heavily involved in them). Interestingly enough, it is also lack of information that misleads some of the Japanese women into making such a life-changing decision like marrying outside their ethnicity.
Lastly, there is also the status that goes along marrying a foreigner. The “exotic” look some foreigner present in Japan can, at times, be considered a trophy and these women want the ability to boast about the fact that they have the communication skills necessary to keep a foreigner with them.
As for the men interested in marrying foreign women, the thought process around the same is much simpler than that of women: if the girl can communicate (speak Japanese/understand her husband’s broken English), is willing to support the family the way a Japanese woman would and looks phenomenal, Japanese men are willing to give international marriage a thought. The reason why most Japanese men will avoid international marriage like a vampire would avoid the cross lies behind the assumption that foreign women aren’t as lenient as Japanese women and they will never be able to understand/put up with the nomikai and zangyo cultures of Japan. If the women demonstrate the ability to overcome such barriers, Japanese men will gladly consider them for marriage.
Why do some Japanese people do not want to marry foreigners?
For the men, it goes as I explained above. The assumption is that foreign women are more dominating, less forgiving and less lenient than Japanese women are and that writes them off for potential wedding partners—not for some of the reasons we would assume—but for the simple factor that it is hard for a marriage to survive in Japan when a man does not have the freedom to be part of all of the company events. Some men are literally bullied into participating at drinking parties with co-workers. It is hard for foreigners, in general, to understand and adapt to this cultural norm—which makes it harder for Japanese men to opt to marry women who would also find it hard to adapt to such values. It is the sad side of common sense.
This will surprise some of you but, the women who are not interested in marrying foreigners do it because they either find them scary or not as attractive as Japanese guys. I have met PLENTY of women that place foreign guys in the “cute” kawaii category and are with them not because of their looks, but mostly because of the characteristics I presented above. Some of my “more handsome” friends will get placed in the “cool” kakkoi category if they are lucky—but you will hardly hear a Japanese girl calling a foreigner ikemen, which is the terminology a foreign girl would use to describe someone like Brad Pitt. Most Japanese girls will only use this expression toward good-looking Japanese, or Asian, men—rarely to describe an occidental guy. Most foreign men in Japan think they are physically in advantage when fighting for mates here but, that’s a wrong assumption. Yeah, to the girls that want to go for the unusual and exotic, they will opt to date/marry foreigners…the majority still prefers otherwise which is why it is so hard at times to find a girl who is “balanced:” one who is not a gaijin hunter but at the same time is somewhat into foreigners. So actually, looks might be a turn off for J-girls when it comes to choosing foreigners as mates.
Finally, lack of stable job prospects for foreigners, language barriers, family intervention, religious and cultural differences, different social values are all involved in keeping most Japanese people from choosing a foreign partner. Consider yourself blessed if you are one of the few who is currently married to, or in the process of marrying, a Japanese national.
If you guys want to find out more about finding love in Japan, I strongly recommend following this guy’s YOUTUBE channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCcIsxujzLRO5qY5f9buahCQ
Nobita is a Japanese guy making videos about love and dating in Japan. He has done some political pieces recently as well which some do not agree with—but regardless of your political inclining, his stuff on dating and marrying in Japan is legit.