How Common Is International Marriage in Japan?

How Common Is International Marriage in JapanWhen you walk around any part of Japan, whether big or small, you will see foreigners everywhere. International couples left and right, holding hands, kissing. Sometimes you don’t even know you are in Japan. Wait… No. The opposite.

For anyone who has visited or lived in Japan, you know that (for now) outside of Tokyo and major tourist spots, you get to experience “only foreigner within sight” syndrome. So international marriage (国際結婚) between Japanese and foreigners? It must be astronomically low right?

1 in 28 couples that just got married are international.

That’s around 3.5% of marrying couples. Surprised? Yes, you should be (though this is in Japanese standards, and in most other countries this number would be incredibly low).

But let’s compare it to another interesting number. The population of Japan is about 127.6 million. There are around 2.2 million foreigners living in Japan.

That means that 1.7% of the population is foreign.

So 1.7% of the population is foreign and 3.5% of Japanese who just got married did so with one of 2.2 million of Japan’s single foreign residents.

And what does this all mean?

I don’t know, I’m not good with numbers, and there may be some deeper implications that some statistics people out there can add.

But 3.5%? What do you think? High or low? Changing trends or is it a mere skewed statistic that makes it feel high when in reality it isn’t?

Note: The most recent number presented on TV was 1 in 28, but in 2006 it was closer to 1 in 16 couples, meaning that international marriage is actually on the decline.


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Founder of Jalup. Spends most of his time absorbing and spreading thrilling information about learning Japanese.


How Common Is International Marriage in Japan? — 11 Comments

  1. I think it’s mostly because Japan has an older population, so you would need to compare the number of foreigners to the number of Japanese people within the standard age for marriage in Japan (maybe 20-40 or so?) It also depends on if these numbers count minors or just adults too.

    • Good point. My original stat of 3.5% of the population would be wrong as the 1 in 28 only refers to couples getting married, not the population as a whole.

  2. I think there’s something up with your logic…

    1 in 28 new marriages are international, but I’m not sure if that means 3.5% of the whole population are married to foreigners. Also this might not even be representative of the entire married population as a statistic, let alone the population as a whole.

    You’ve also inferred that all resident foreigners are married to a Japanese national, which isn’t the case.

    Perhaps what you should say is 3.5% of Japanese who just got married did so with one of 2.2 million of Japan’s single foreign residents.

    What’s I think is interesting is the ratio of Japanese to foreigners in the population is lower than the ratio of international marriages to domestic. But I couldn’t tell you what that means!

    It would be interesting to see the figures for single and married foreigners. And also how many international couples end up leaving Japan.

  3. Are there any statistics on divorce rates? It would be interesting to know if there is a difference there between international and domestic couples.

    • According to the chart, 7% of divorces are between international couples. The author believes this percentage is higher than the percentage of marriages due to international marriages being more likely to collapse than domestic ones.

  4. “So 1.7% of the population is foreign and 3.5% of Japanese who just got married did so with one of 2.2 million of Japan’s single foreign residents.”

    Err….. I’m a bit late here, but there’s nothing surprising in this apparent mismatch between the 1.7% and 3.5% figures, because one is counting INDIVIDUALS, while the other is counting COUPLES, which are composed of TWO individuals.

    In fact, notice how 2 x 1.7% = 3.4%, nearly 3.5%, which is exactly how you would expect the two numbers to be related if it is fair to assume foreigners generally marry natives (which is bound to be a fair assumption with such a small foreign population).

    Or for anyone still confused, consider the following four couples:

    J-J J-J J-F J-F

    That’s a total population of 8, with 2 foreigners, making them 25% of the population. Yet 50% of the couples are international.

  5. Hi,
    So where are the charts going in 2017? We like Japanese girls :)

    I like the posters of “My Darling is a Foreigner”

    • Good question. I don’t have any info on it, but maybe this time they went up (considering the foreigner increase in Japan)

  6. Majority of international marriage in Japan are Japanese male with non-Japanese Asian women couple.btw.

    • The non-Japanese Asian part definitely makes sense, as the largest percentage of immigrants comes from Asia.

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