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Proposing to your Japanese girlfriend

Follow this guide and you'll propose like a Champ!


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When dating a Japanese girl, there are a lot of cultural issues to overcome. Japan is a country of traditions, and as far as proposing goes, there are very complex set of rules that have to be observed.

It is best that you do your research at each point. Browse the web and read about other people's experiences and if possible, get a Japanese friend to help you navigate the process.

Please understand this critical point: contrary to the US or UK, you will have to get your girlfriend's parents blessing before marrying their daughter. I would advise you do to it this way, some Japanese parents would be wronged or insulted if you didn't.

Since in the Japanese culture, you're never only marrying the girl, but also her family, asking them their daughter's hand is the best way to start your marriage off on the right track.

It is highly unlikely that anything can go wrong, but you can create a lot of goodwill by doing it the Japanese way, especially if the parents are not familiar with western customs.

The first thing that you should do is to figure out how to propose to your girlfriend. You have a lot of freedom here since she knows that you are a gaikokujin (gaijin has racist and derogatory connotations). But still, you can make it special for her by bringing out some of the traditions of Japan into your proposal.

How Long Should You Date Before proposing her?

You think you've found your match, you're in love. She's beautiful, smart, funny, well mannered. You feel ready to commit, but when is the best time to make that happen?

In America, couples date, in general, for approximately two years before getting married.

In Japan, the length of time for which people date before getting engaged, before marrying, is not vastly different from the USA or the UK. Some couple dated for a year, some for 18 months, some for 3 years.

In Japan, a year seems to be about average, but remember, there are no rules. Personally, we dated for about 3 years before getting married.

One little advice here, instead of concentrating on how long you've been dating, go with your feelings to evaluate whether or not you're both ready for marriage.

There are basically two ways to propose

There are actually two ways to go with the proposal. I think that basically, it all comes down to your personality, your girlfriend's personality and her parents level of traditionalism and open-mindedness.

One thing is for sure, you will have to ask her parents consent for marrying your girlfriend. PERIOD. That will make both you girlfriend AND her parents happy.

Ideally, you should have already met your girlfriend's parents a few times before anyway. You should already know a bit about them. Are the strict traditionalist or are they more 'chill'? Even if you did not meet them enough time, their daughters, your girlfriend, has probably talked about them to you, so one way or another, you can guess what to expect when proposing.

Ok, as I said before, it basically comes down to these two scenarios:

1. You ask for her parent's permission first, THEN you 'officially' propose her

In my opinion, that's is the best road to take. Not only will your Japanese girl respect and love you for it, but her parents will also see that you are a deserving man to give their daughter over to.

Hopefully, you and your girlfriend have talked about getting married before you ask her parents; otherwise, you can have a bad surprise. I'm just saying, reveal your plan to her first. Once you have her parent's consent, you can start planning the actual proposal.

Anyway, if you want to get on the good side of your future in-laws, listen to your friend Kyle here and seek her parent's blessing/permission first! I guess I'm old fashioned but even though it's not my culture, I respected my girlfriend's culture and wanted to do things the right way.

2. You propose to her first, THEN you ask for her parent's permission.

I honestly believe that this option might be a risky one. Her parent might be offended that you bypassed them and asked their daughter first. Most Japanese parent won't be offended, but some will be. Again, it really depends on their way of thinking. But if you took that road, it's probably (hopefully!) because you know it would turn out the right way.

Obtaining her parent's consent

Ok, so now you will have to actually meet your girlfriend's parents in person to ask them the permission to marry their daughter. This is, in my opinion, the most formal and respectable way to do it.

Since marriage in Japan is regarded as a family thing, it definitely seems to be rude to ask her parent's permission to marry in a letter without seeing them. That will give them a lousy impression of you. You cannot really get a feeling of what a person is genuinely like through a phone call or letter. Meeting in person is much more personal, in my opinion.

If you are not in Japan, take the plane so you can ask for their blessings in person. That's important. Asking for their daughter's hand IS an important event. Treat it as such. I would advise making sure to ask to meet her parents the day you arrive or the next day at the very latest. This is a sign of respect towards them.

If you absolutely don't have the money for you both to fly over, a phone call might be acceptable but still kind of tacky in my opinion.

Prepare the meeting with your girlfriend

And you should work with your girlfriend to make sure that that the meeting goes well. She can give you advice on how to behave, how to say things, etc. Decide together with her about the best way to approach her parents.

I still remember when I ask my girlfriend's (now my wife!) parents consent. I was SO nervous. I bought a brand new suit just for the occasion. One hour after the proposal, I was naked in an Onsen (hot springs) with my future father-in-law, 'celebrating'! Anyway! Back to you and your project...

If your girlfriend is willing to be present, and she should, that will facilitate the process. That's way better than doing it on your own. After, two persons are getting married right?

Write down a script

Beforehand, you can prepare by writing down a text, in English if your Japanese is not good enough to ask her parents. I would suggest a five-minute long speech about you, your background, your family and your future plans.

You have to convince your girlfriend's dad that you will be a good son-in-law. Of course, you'll ask both the parents at the same time, but remember that in Japanese society the father is more important in such matters than the mother. Don't worry, you'll do just fine.

Give a small gift

What will be the most appropriate way is to have a small gift ready that you bring to her parents when you go to meet with them for this purpose. A fruit basket or tin of cookies will do fine. Don't overdo it with the gift - it can create the wrong impression.( Remember the k.i.s.s. Rule! 😁)

Wear a suit

Appearance is vitally essential in Japan, and people are often judged on the way they are dressed. Show respect and wear a dark suit, a tie and impeccable shoes (that you will remove once inside!) that would meet her parent's idea of a gentleman. It will show that you’ve put a lot of thought and effort into what you’ll look like. Also, wearing a suit will make you think differently and feel more confident.

The event itself

In Japan, when a man asks for the permission to marry, it's pretty much always the same. You will meet your girlfriend's parents in their place. They know pretty much what is going to happen, even if they were not officially told, so the meeting will probably be formal.

Bow politely and offer the proper Japanese greeting (don't kiss, don't hug!). Once invited inside the house, remove your shoes, get in the house, and bow once more and express sincere apologies for any inconvenience you may be provoking.

Try to make the initial greetings right, it will definitely impress them, but your future in-laws know you are not Japanese, and will readily forgive you don't act 'the Japanese way,' BUT remove your shoes!

You'll probably be invited to the main room of the house or the apartment where you will most likely sit on the floor. Try to sit in seiza (kneeling), that's is very polite and formal to sit. The show is about to start.

When speaking with your future parents-in-law, remember one fundamental rule - keep it quiet. Let them do the talking first. Answer each question with a short and concise response. Follow the conversation with great attention.

If your Japanese is good enough to have a conversation, great, if not, your girlfriends will probably be translating. She's probably nervous too, so she might mess up or not translate fast enough. Stay patient, smile and wait.

Propose with your heart

You will probably be nervous, and that’s okay. Take a deep breath and lead with your emotions. Tell them (him!) how much you respect and love their (his!) daughter. Even if all you’re able to say is “I love her,” that’s a great place to start.

Instead of asking permission, simply explain your wish to spend the rest of your life with his daughter. Tell him that you’ll always honour, respect, and cherish his daughter. The big thing is, to be honest, humble and be sincere. It'll work.

This is an excellent opportunity to ask for advice on proposing and marriage, too.

After you receive your future father-in-law's blessing, you will most certainly have a great meal and a few many beers to celebrate the occasion!

You did it champ! The in-laws loves you and your girlfriend is extatic! Now, don't drink too much!

Ring or no ring?

Even if Japan is a Shintoist and Buddhist country (yes, both religions go along very well side by side), Japanese people are pretty fond of Western-style wedding traditions.

However, this is comparatively a new tradition which was spread to the public along with the influx of the Western culture started with the opening of Japan in the Meiji period.

By the way, the engagement ring has no 'Christian' connotations attached to it, so if you're not the religious type, no worries here.

Ask her first

Engagement ring and marriage ring are common items to prepare for the wedding. Yet, some more traditionalist women don't like the idea of an engagement ring. Please discuss with her about what she would prefer.

She might not share your taste regarding the choice of the ring

Although I know she doesn't trust my taste in fashion. As for the ring, however, a lot of couples buy the ring after they promise each other to get married. If you want it to be a surprise, you can take her to a jewelry shop without notice. Taking her there itself is the surprise. You can then take her to the side to make sure if she likes the shop or not. Also, a lot of couples do prefer to spend the money on other things rather than to buy the ring.

Japanese women (and men) don’t wear their wedding rings all the time

But, don’t be too upset if she doesn’t wear the ring all the time. It is still quite normal for engaged/married women not to wear rings.

Propose to your girlfriend with a Japanese phrase, she won't resist!

For the Japanese, marriage is really a big step, and you need to show your future wife your sincerity of intent and the desire to become one with her and her family.

One of the best marriage proposal ideas is to propose to a girl in her own language. If you have a Japanese girlfriend and the time has come to propose, please try to use one of my top 5 favourite proposal phrases.

1. Will you marry me?
"Kekkon shite kuremasen ka?"

2. Will you create a happy family with me?
"Boku to shiawasena katei o tsukurimasen ka?"

3. I can only imagine a future with (name/you).
"(Please add name here) to no mirai shika kangaerarenai."

4. Let’s create a warm, forever-smiling family together."
"boku to egao no taenai atatakai katei o tsukurou.

5. From now on, please always be by my side." "korekara mo zutto ore no tonari ni ite kudasai."

She will surely be impressed, all that because of me! I know what you're thinking, I'm such a great guy! I know!

How to actually propose her?

Not that you have her parent's blessing, it's time to propose officially. You don't have to propose right away, in your in-law's house the moment they (he) said 'yes.'

Let a week or two passes, before asking her to become your wife.

Japanese girls aren't much different from other girls when it comes to marriage: and the ring, the romantic location, and guy on bended knee.

Choosing the ideal proposal location

So, you’ve narrowed down the date for the proposal, now it's time to choose the right place.

Getting the location right could make your proposal even better. The site needs to be just right… the perfect place, the perfect weather and the perfect ambiance.

There are no rules, choose a location which means something to the two of you is one of the best choices to make when choosing somewhere to pop the question. What do you both like? Are you the 'urban' or the 'nature' type?

These are arguably some of the Top 10 most popular proposal location in Japan:

  1. Tokyo Skytree
  2. Roppongi Hills Observation Deck
  3. Meoto Iwa
  4. Togetsukyo Bridge
  5. Sagano Bamboo Forest
  6. Kiyomizu-dera in Kyoto
  7. Osaka-Jo (Osaka castle)
  8. Mount Fuji
  9. Oka Park in Yokohama
  10. Gero Onsen is Takayama

Independently of where you choose to propose, keep in mind that Japanese people are generally quiet and reserved so avoid a huge, public proposal where tons of people will be watching - make it an intimate affair just between the two of you.

Personally, I propose my now wife, in Japan, in a 1300+ years old Shinto shrine close to her parent's place.

Pssst... Don't forget to bring the ring with you, if she told you that she wanted one!

Now get on your knee

There is no more instantly recognizable Western romantic display than when a man proposes his girlfriend down on one knee.

This Western tradition has been around for centuries and remains popular today. It's becoming more and more common in Japan too and is seen (rightfully so) by the Japanese women as a symbol of European Chivalry.

So, Sir (insert your name here), get down on your knee present her with a ring and say "kekon shite kudasai!" or any other phrases that I suggested to you early in the reading. Scroll up, you'll find it! ;-)

And they lived happily ever after!

Conclusion

Trust me, the night you will propose is going to be one of the most nerve-wracking nights of your existence! I know, I experienced it eight years ago!

Try not to worry too much, if you follow the proposal tips that we covered in this article, you'll be fine.

Remember to ask your future in-laws blessings before proposing her and prepare well for the encounter. Get help from your girlfriend and write down a script if you have to. Think about a small gift to offer them and get a new suit for the occasion.

Pick a great location for the proposal, a place you will both like. Give her the ring and say the magic phrase. Don't forget to breathe in the process.

The story of a well-planned marriage proposal is something they will be telling their friends and family about and will remember forever and ever.

The tought and attention that you put into your proposal will show her and her family what she can expect from you for the rest of your lives.