A Chinese Love for Weddings in Japan Is Saving the Local Market

June 29, 2016 Updated: June 29, 2016

In a small church in the island community of Onna, Okinawa, Mr. Zhao and his bride step out arm in arm onto a red carpet as guests to their wedding cheer out in congratulation. After the event, the couple and their companions—from Taiwan—go out to a pristine white beach for a photo shoot.

“The service is really good,” Zhao’s bride, Wang, says of the attentive staff from the Junichi wedding company, who stood by with parasols and towels to help the guests enjoy their stay even in the scorching heat of Japan’s southernmost prefecture.

“When I return home, I will suggest to my friends that they get married in Okinawa,” Wang told Nikkei, the leading Japanese financial paper.

Many ethnic Chinese couples—be they from Hong Kong, Taiwan, or the mainland—are of the same mind. The Japanese government issued 3,700,000 tourist visas to people from these three countries in 2015, an 85 percent rise from the previous year.

It’s been something of a deus ex machina for the listing Japanese wedding market, as wealthy Chinese couples are ready to spend generously during their visits, yet fewer contemporary Japanese couples are even holding weddings, Nikkei reported on its Chinese-language edition.

“Foreign couples are strong candidates for supporting the shrinking Japanese wedding market,” said Suzuki Naoki, head of the Recruit Bridal Research Institute, in an interview with Nikkei.

A worker at a wedding service in Okinawa said one in ten couples doing photo shoots and holding wedding ceremonies are from abroad. “The last two or three years has seen a rapid increase in the number of foreigners. The number of people going on vacation in Okinawa for their weddings has reached a historical peak in 2015.”

Foreign couples tend to be less thrifty in celebration of their unions, according to Nikkei. It’s common to see visitors spending multiple times that of Japanese couples, a phenomenon that has brought Okinawa alone 2.8 billion yen (about $27 million).

For Chinese couples, getting married abroad in countries like Japan is a symbol of social status and cultural taste.

“It’s particularly in fashion to come to Japan for wedding photos now,” said one Chinese couple. “We like the plateau, so we are here at Karuizawa, but Okinawa is more popular.”