Your dream Japan elopement – the ultimate planning guide
UPDATED FOR 2024-2025
If there is one very mysterious and beautiful country on earth, it’s Japan. When we think about it, we always think of the bustling city of Tokyo, the temples and the blooming cherry trees. But there is SO MUCH more to see in Japan! Every season holds a special gift to discover, and each and every part of this beautiful country is worth discovering. This is why planning to elope in Japan might be the best idea you could have. And whether you’re dreaming of a city elopement in Tokyo or an adventure elopement in Japan, this guide will cover every question you might have – and some more.
Let’s dive in…
Welcome to the Adventure of a Lifetime
Hey there, I’m Amber! I’m your elopement photographer and planner – your one-stop-shop for absolutely everything you need for a magical, incredible elopement day.
I offer all-inclusive elopement packages for couples who want to relax and let me handle absolutely everything, as well as options for couples who like a little bit of DIY! I’ll find the perfect place for you to exchange vows, recommend vendors, help you figure out travel and lodging, make a timeline, and more – personalizing each part of your elopement day to perfectly suit the two of you. And of course, I’ll be there to take the photos and document this once in a lifetime adventure.
You aren’t like every other couple, and your wedding day shouldn’t be either! I’ll help you craft a day that’s true to you, authentic, and real, allowing you to immerse yourselves in the experience as you say your “I dos.”
First, let’s be sure we’re talking about the same thing:
What is an elopement?
Nowadays, an elopement is a way for a couple to get married in a very meaningful and untraditional way. Couples who elope generally tend to do so in a place they love or they would love to visit (such as Japan!), and most of them also choose a beautiful, natural backdrop like the summit of a mountain, a tropical forest, a beach or a cityscape. This special kind of wedding can be celebrated with just the couple, or a handful of family members and friends (generally, the number of guests won’t exceed 20 for an elopement). The emphasis is put on the couple itself rather than the fuss of planning a huge wedding with a venue and a caterer, and the ceremony is the centerpiece of the day. The couple can then enjoy the place they chose while exploring around for their honeymoon.
Why you should plan an adventure elopement in Japan
Once again, nature might not be the first thing that comes to mind when we think about Japan, except maybe the beautiful and famous Mount Fuji. However, nature is very present in the Japanese culture (think about all the beautiful art that comes from Japan and which features forests, mountains, birds…) and if you’re an adventure lover, Japan might be just what you’re looking for your elopement. Once you go out the big cities, you can find peaceful and delightful places to exchange your vows.
The Japanese culture is one of the most ancient culture in the world, and features a lot of amazing things, like the tea ceremony, the temples, the onsens (natural hot springs), and all the beautiful, ancient villages you can find while driving around. If you’re looking to discover something new, Japan is the best destination for your adventure elopement.
If you’re ever been to a Japanese restaurant, then you will quickly find out that it actually has nothing to do with what you will actually eat in Japan. The food there is delicious and authentic, and eloping in Japan might be the best reason to indulge on some Kaiseki food, which uses ingredients hardly found in other parts of the world.
How to elope in Japan legally
To be honest, if you are not a Japan resident, you should try to avoid going the legal route for your elopement as it will be a very lengthily and hard process. All my couples who choose to elope in Japan choose to have a legal ceremony at home (at their local city hall) and then go to Japan to exchange more intimate and meaningful vows in a splendid environment.
However, if you are from the US, you have the option of asking your county clerk to add “Japan” as a possible and legal place to have your ceremony, and as a registered minister, I’ll be able to officiate your wedding in Japan.
For couples from the US:
In certain states, you can ask your county clerk the authorization to sign your wedding license abroad. If they agree, as a registered minister, my team and I will be able to legally marry you without the hassle of a legal wedding ceremony in Japan.
How to Get to Japan for Your Elopement
Embarking on an elopement to Japan is a journey into a world where tradition and modernity dance in harmony, where every detail is an ode to beauty, and every moment is steeped in significance. Your gateway to this unforgettable adventure begins with choosing your arrival point in Tokyo, the pulsating heart of Japan. The city is served by two main airports, each offering a unique gateway to your elopement dreams:
Narita International Airport (NRT)
Nestled about 60 kilometers east of central Tokyo, Narita International Airport is not just an airport; it’s a vibrant entryway into Japan’s rich tapestry. Serving as the international hub, it connects Tokyo with cities across the globe, making it a popular choice for international travelers embarking on their Japanese elopement adventure. Narita offers a wide range of services, including numerous transportation options to Tokyo, such as express trains, buses, and taxis, ensuring your journey into the city is as smooth as your flight. The airport is renowned for its spacious terminals, a vast array of dining and shopping options, and facilities that cater to the needs of global travelers, making it an ideal starting point for those who seek convenience and a glimpse into Japan’s welcoming spirit.
Haneda Airport (HND)
Once primarily serving domestic flights, Haneda Airport, located closer to the city center (about 14 kilometers south of Tokyo Station), has expanded its international terminal, becoming a favored choice for those seeking quick access to the heart of Tokyo. Haneda’s proximity to Tokyo’s central areas makes it exceptionally convenient for couples eager to dive into their elopement experience without the longer commute from Narita. Offering an array of transportation options, including the Tokyo Monorail that whisks you into the downtown in under 30 minutes, Haneda combines efficiency with the allure of immediate immersion into Tokyo’s dynamic rhythm. The airport itself is a microcosm of Japanese efficiency and hospitality, with a wide range of services, eateries, and shops that mirror Tokyo’s eclectic charm.
Choosing Your Gateway
The choice between Narita and Haneda may come down to factors such as your origin, flight availability, and your plans upon arrival in Tokyo. Narita’s extensive international connections make it a gateway for those coming from far-off lands, offering the first taste of Japan’s grandeur. Meanwhile, Haneda appeals to those seeking the quickest transition from air to the urban exploration of Tokyo, eager to weave the city’s vibrancy into their elopement story from the moment they land.
Getting Around Japan During Your Elopement
Navigating Japan on the wings of its world-renowned public transport system is an adventure in itself, a seamless blend of efficiency, convenience, and a dash of cultural immersion. As you embark on your elopement journey through this mesmerizing country, you’ll find that the trains, including the iconic Shinkansen (bullet trains), and the comprehensive JR Pass, along with the option of renting a car, offer different flavors of exploration tailored to your unique adventure.
Trains and the JR Pass
Japan’s railway network is the pulsating vein that connects the heart of its cities to the serene beauty of its rural landscapes. The Shinkansen lines, famed for their punctuality, speed, and comfort, make traveling across the country not just easy, but an experience to savor. For those looking to weave multiple destinations into their elopement tapestry, the Japan Rail Pass (JR Pass) is an invaluable asset. This pass, available for 7, 14, or 21 consecutive days, offers unlimited travel on most JR trains nationwide, including the Shinkansen, regional trains, and even some ferry services. It’s designed for foreign tourists and must be purchased outside of Japan before your trip. The JR Pass is a key to unlocking the country’s myriad landscapes, from the neon buzz of Tokyo to the tranquil spirituality of Kyoto, making it an ideal choice for couples seeking to immerse themselves in the full breadth of Japan’s allure.
Renting a Car
For those yearning for the freedom to explore Japan’s hidden gems at their own pace, renting a car opens up a realm of possibilities. While Japan’s public transport system is exceptional, a car allows you to venture off the beaten path, discover secluded spots for intimate moments, and revel in the scenic beauty of Japan’s countryside, coastal roads, and mountainous regions. Renting a car is particularly appealing for exploring areas less accessible by train, such as the rural parts of Hokkaido, the picturesque villages of the Japanese Alps, or the remote beaches of Okinawa. It’s worth noting, however, that driving in Japan requires an International Driving Permit (IDP) for most foreign drivers, and navigating the country’s roads is made easier with a GPS or a good map app, considering the predominance of Japanese road signs.
Did you know?
As your dedicated guide and photographer for Japan elopements, I offer a uniquely comforting service by including complimentary transportation throughout your elopement journey. This thoughtful touch allows you to dive deep into the joy and excitement of your special day, free from the intricacies of navigating Japan’s distinct road system, where driving is on the “other” side. With every logistic gracefully managed with expertise and attentiveness, your focus remains on the beautiful moments and memories we’re creating together in this enchanting land.
Lodging for Your Elopement in Japan
When it comes to lodging options for your Japan elopement, you’ll find a variety of choices that perfectly blend comfort and authentic Japanese experiences. Here are insights into three popular options: ryokans, boutique hotels, and traditional Japanese hotels, all offering unique settings for your Japan elopement.
Ryokans are traditional Japanese inns that provide an immersive cultural experience. They often feature tatami-matted rooms, futon beds, and yukata (casual kimonos) for guests. You’ll have the opportunity to enjoy kaiseki (multi-course) meals, hot spring baths (onsen), and a tranquil atmosphere.
Ryokans are ideal for couples seeking an authentic and intimate Japan elopement experience. Imagine exchanging vows in a serene Japanese garden or on a private tatami-matted room’s veranda, with the beautiful natural surroundings enhancing the moment. The combination of traditional aesthetics and modern comforts makes ryokans a memorable choice for your Japan elopement lodging.
Many ryokans offer wedding packages tailored to Japan elopements, ensuring that your special day is seamless and unforgettable. Plus, their attention to detail and hospitality will leave you with cherished memories.
Japan’s boutique hotels offer a blend of contemporary design, luxury, and personalized service. These hotels often feature stylish interiors, modern amenities, and unique design elements that create a chic and comfortable ambiance.
For couples looking for a more modern setting for their Japan elopement, boutique hotels provide a sophisticated backdrop. You can choose from various settings, from rooftop gardens with cityscape views to elegant banquet halls, depending on your preferences.
Boutique hotels in Japan are known for their attention to detail, ensuring that your wedding day is an elegant and refined affair. Some even offer dedicated wedding planning services, allowing you to customize your elopement to perfection.
Traditional Japanese Hotels (Ryokan with a Twist)
In recent years, some traditional Japanese hotels have undergone renovations to offer a blend of traditional charm and contemporary comfort. These modernized ryokans provide a unique fusion of old and new, allowing you to experience the best of both worlds.
For your Japan elopement, these establishments offer the charm of a ryokan with the convenience of modern amenities. Think spacious tatami rooms with private hot spring baths and panoramic views of natural landscapes.
These venues are perfect for couples who want to embrace Japanese traditions while enjoying the comfort and convenience of modern living. They often provide special wedding packages designed for Japan elopements, ensuring that your day is both culturally rich and luxurious.
Did you know?
When you book your elopement experience with me, I’ll give you access to my concierge service and recommend incredible hotels and talented local vendors.
Top 12 spots to elope in Japan
This is, by far, my favorite place to elope in Japan, especially for an adventure elopement. This island is still wild and untouched, and hardly visited by tourists (especially foreign ones). You will find there a natural paradise, featuring deep forests, waterfalls, lakes, mountains…everything you might think of is present on the island. You can choose to exchange your vows after a short hike through cedar trees, or by a crystal-clear waterfall in the middle of a rainforest.
Another hidden gem that is worth discovering. It was overlooked for centuries until bridges were built between the mainland and Honshu, thus opening Shikoku to tourists. You will find there castles, temples and shrines, citrus plants and rapids perfect for rafting, and the most famous pilgrimage of Japan, the 88 sacred temples of Shikoku. Don’t forget to visit the Iya Valley as well! And if you’re up early, you can also walk on the Kazuabashi suspension bridge, which overlooks a beautiful river.
If you’re looking for a mythological place to exchange your vows, you can choose the Miyazaki prefecture for your elopement in Japan. With one of the warmest climates on the main islands, it was a very popular destination for honeymoons. Takachiho and Kirishima are both important sites of Japanese mythology, and are amazing to enjoy nature.
Yes, this is Japan’s most famous mountain, but it can be enjoyed from so many different places that it’s definitely worth mentioning. You can choose to exchange your vows while overlooking the mountain (and the Chureito Pagoda might be the best place to do so, especially in April when the cherry trees are blossoming!) or you can also hike the mountain and exchange your vows while overlooking Japan! However, be aware that Mount Fuji is dubbed “most climbed peak in the world” so it can get pretty busy!
This small village has a very unique look, and would be an amazing backdrop for your vows exchange. It features lots of traditional gassho-zukuri farmhouses, with rustic wooden frames and thatched roofs. It’s best to visit during winter, where the view is even more stunning!
Kumano Nachi Taishi
One of the three beautiful Kumano shrines, this is a beautiful spot to elope in Japan. The culture here is very present, and the beautiful waterfall in the background of the temple adds a stunning touch of nature. It is definitely one of the most beautiful places in Japan, so even if you don’t choose it to exchange your vows, you can still visit it after!
Once again, it’s not a natural place per say, but it’s such a stunning location that I had to include it. Imagine strolling through the streets of an ancient city, with a view on a magnificent, immaculate while castle in the background. This is Himeiji castle, and it’s totally worth a visit.
The Alpine route of Japan (Tateyama Kurobe)
This route is definitely worth the trip, and it goes through some of the most beautiful, wild, untouched and peaceful mountains in Japan. Better enjoyed by train, you can go at any season and enjoy a different experience every time. Don’t forget to pay a visit to the “wall of snow” while you’re there!
Ishigaki and Miyako-Jima, Okinawa prefecture
If you’re looking for a little place of sandy beach and tropical paradise, Ishigaki and Miyako-Jima are the best places to elope in Japan. However be aware that these are very touristic spots in Japan, that tends to be booked up solid months in advance.
Motonosumi Inari Shrine
Maybe you’ve seen pictures of the world’s most famous shrine in Kyoto (the Fushimi Inari Taisha), and if you liked it, then I have great news for you, because its brother is located near a beautiful cliff in the Yamaguchi prefecture! It’s less crowded and more natural than the one in Kyoto, while still featuring more than 100 vermilion gates!
Nakasendo trail (and the village of Tsumago)
This trail is very famous as it historically linked Tokyo to Kyoto. Nowadays, it has been restored and little villages on its way have been renovated with an ancient feeling, and you can find beautiful views overlooking the villages and the nearby mountains while exchanging your vows.
Shiretoko National Park, Hokkaido
It’s a shame that most of Japan’s travelers miss Hokkaido, because this island is a little gem to be discovered. You won’t find a lot of tourist attractions there as it is very overlooked, but this adds to the beauty, silence and wilderness of the island. You will definitely find YOUR spot if you’re planning an adventure elopement in Japan!
Did you know?
There’s a world of wonder beyond Tokyo and the temples when it comes to Japan. When you decide to plan your elopement with me, I’ll offer a tailored list of 4 to 5 remarkable off-the-beaten-path locations that align seamlessly with your preferences. Let me guide you to Japan’s hidden gems, far from the typical tourist destinations.
The best time to elope in Japan
The average temperature in winter varies greatly between the north and the south of the archipelago. While it can be very cold in the Hokkaido area, it is generally between 0 ° C and 15 ° C in the Tokyo and Kyoto areas while it is even milder in Shikoku and Kyushu. Winter in Japan is also rather dry and sunny: it is, for example, the best time to admire Mount Fuji, which the rest of the year is almost always covered in clouds. It often happens that it snows – without this paralyzing the country – to the delight of lovers of sliding sports who find themselves in the Japanese Alps or in Hokkaido which has the reputation of having the most beautiful ski slopes. from Japan.
In Japan, spring is a special season. Beginning between the end of March and the beginning of April, it manifests as the blooming of cherry blossoms (sakura) in the Okinawa archipelago. During this period, nature animates the country with many bright colors, and the population welcomes and honors it with various festivities. For this, spring is the period that welcomes the most tourists in Japan.
Summer in Japan is the rainy season. The months of June and July are particularly rainy and the heat begins to be felt. Temperatures vary between 25 ° C and 30 ° C. Rain, humidity and heat make the atmosphere difficult to breathe, especially in large cities. In the north of the country, on the island of Hokkaido, the climate is more bearable there with less rain and heat. Summer is also the season for typhoons which can cause significant damage.
The change in leaf color in fall in Japan varies with temperature, altitude and latitude. What does this mean to you ? Mountainous regions and islands to the north will experience fall colors earlier than other regions. You should also take note of the fall color forecast as well as the weather forecast, as these will keep you up to date with temperature changes and fall foliage dates. When temperatures turn cold early, Japanese fall colors appear earlier – up to several weeks earlier – and vice versa. In general, the fall foliage season in Japan begins in mid-September on Hokkaido Island, the northernmost island. In other parts of Japan, such as Tokyo and Kyoto, the best times to view them are usually from mid-October to early December. Peak sightings in each area typically last anywhere from two weeks to over a month.
Did you know?
As an elopement guide and photographer in Japan, I offer a reassuring service to all my couples by providing complimentary transportation during their elopement adventure. This allows them to fully immerse themselves in the joy of their elopement experience, while I expertly manage all the logistics, including the unique challenge of driving on the other side of the road!
Example budget of an elopement in Japan
When it comes to elopement budgets, I understand the challenges of providing a precise estimate for vendors outside of my own expertise. The cost can greatly vary depending on your chosen destination and the quality of vendors you desire.
Elopement expenses are significantly influenced by factors like your chosen location. Rather than providing generic budget estimates for vendors I don’t work with, I recommend exploring my elopement packages. They include all-inclusive options, giving you a clearer view of your budget and costs.
Unique Things to Do When You Elope in Japan
These off-the-beaten-path experiences offer a unique blend of culture, nature, and spirituality that can beautifully complement your elopement in Japan. They provide unforgettable moments that are sure to enhance your overall Japan elopement adventure.
Private Tea Ceremony in a Hidden Garden
Embrace the serene and traditional side of Japan by arranging a private tea ceremony in a hidden garden. While traditional tea ceremonies are not uncommon, experiencing one in a secluded and lesser-known garden can be a truly intimate and special elopement memory.
Your elopement in Japan can start with the calming ritual of a tea ceremony, where you’ll learn about the art of tea preparation and enjoy matcha green tea. The peaceful surroundings and personalized attention create a unique atmosphere for you and your partner. It’s a moment of tranquility and cultural connection that will add depth to your Japan elopement experience.
Overnight Stay at a Buddhist Temple
For a profound and spiritual experience, consider spending a night at a Buddhist temple in the heart of Japan’s lush countryside. This immersive opportunity allows you to participate in the daily life of the monks, including meditation sessions and vegetarian meals.
Imagine sharing your vows in the temple’s serene garden or in a quiet corner of the temple grounds, surrounded by the tranquility of nature and the echoes of ancient traditions. It’s a deeply spiritual and unique way to infuse your elopement in Japan with a sense of mindfulness and cultural significance.
Stargazing in a Dark Sky Reserve
Japan is home to some remarkable Dark Sky Reserves, such as the Nishiawa International Dark Sky Park. Consider venturing to one of these designated areas for a night of stargazing, an experience that will add a celestial touch to your elopement in Japan.
In these remote locations, far from the city lights, you and your partner can marvel at the dazzling beauty of the night sky. Whether you choose to exchange your vows under a blanket of stars or simply enjoy a romantic evening of stargazing, it’s an opportunity to connect with the universe and create truly magical memories.
How to plan the perfect ceremony?
Option A: you’re staying very close to your elopement spot
Whether you’re planning on saying “I do” on top of a building in Tokyo or in the garden of an ancient farmhouse, you can get up and stay in bed together for a nice sleep in, then eat a delicious Japanese breakfast.
Your photographer can meet you when you start getting ready. Around 2pm, ask your makeup artist and hairdresser (if you choose to have one) to come and meet you in your room. Take a shower beforehand to have a nice, clean skin and maybe also indulge in a massage in the morning.
Around 4pm, you should be ready to go out and meet your loved one. Your photographer can help you plan a “first look” in a beautiful area of his/her choosing, around 4.30pm. You can then head to the site of your elopement.
Between 5 and 5.30pm (depending on the time it takes to get there) you can start your ceremony and exchange your vows as the sun sets (check with a local app to have the exact sunset time so you won’t end your ceremony in the dark!). Your photographer will definitely help you choose the best time to start your ceremony.
Once the ceremony is done, you can then head into the sunset with your photographer and splurge in a beautiful photoshoot with just the two of you, surrounded by the beauty of Japan.
This option typically asks for a 8 to 10 hours of photography coverage.
Option B: you have to hike to get to your elopement site
If you’ve chosen an “off the beaten path” place to exchange your vows, you might want to get ready earlier in the day.
Your photographer, makeup artist and hairdresser can meet you around 10am so you would be ready around noon. Take a nice meal, the day ahead of you will be amazing! Around 1pm, you can plan a first look with your loved one, and then head to the trail.
Ask your photographer to help you plan accordingly so you would arrive on the site of your elopement around 2 hours before sunset. This will give you plenty of time to exchange your vows in an already beautiful and golden light, then to enjoy a very nice photoshoot around in nature with your photographer, so you would have memorable, amazing pictures to keep forever.
These days typically last between 10 and 12 hours, and some photographers (like myself!) can also offer several-day packages to really enjoy the raw beauty of Japan.
Typical food and dishes from Japan
You might want to integrate into your elopement day
Sushi is perhaps one of the most famous Japanese dishes worldwide. It consists of vinegared rice combined with a variety of ingredients such as fresh seafood, vegetables, and occasionally tropical fruits. Sushi can be found in various forms, including nigiri (hand-pressed sushi), sashimi (thinly sliced raw fish), and maki rolls (seaweed-wrapped rolls filled with rice and ingredients).
Trying sushi in Japan is a must, as you’ll discover the incredible freshness and flavors of the ingredients. Visit a sushi restaurant where the chef prepares the sushi right in front of you for an authentic experience.
Ramen is a beloved Japanese noodle dish that comes in various regional styles. It typically consists of Chinese-style wheat noodles served in a flavorful broth, often flavored with ingredients like soy sauce, miso, or pork bone (tonkotsu). Toppings can include sliced pork, seaweed, boiled eggs, and green onions.
Sampling a bowl of ramen in Japan is a delightful culinary experience. Each region offers its own unique twist on this comfort food, making it a delicious adventure to explore.
Tempura is a popular Japanese dish consisting of battered and deep-fried seafood, vegetables, or even seasonal treats like tempura sakura (cherry blossoms). The batter is light and crispy, and the dish is often served with a dipping sauce or salt.
Enjoying tempura in Japan allows you to taste the delicate flavors and expert frying techniques that make this dish so special. You can find tempura restaurants that offer a variety of ingredients, ensuring there’s something for every palate.
Eloping in Japan – your checklist
Think about where you’d like to go
Japan is so diverse that you will want to actually research the country before picking a definite location. Would you rather exchange your vows on a beach, in a rainforest, in the snow, by cherry trees, overlooking Mount Fuji, by a waterfall? These are all valid options that need to be researched in order to find the best spot for you.
Pick a date
Look into the different seasons and what they offer, and pick the one that suits you best.
Find more information about travel visas and wedding documentation
Don’t forget your passport and a travel visa (if needed) so you won’t have bad news while arriving at the airport.
Book your accommodation
Look into ryokans and traditional farmhouses if you’re after a very intimate and beautiful experience. Japan also boasts with original and beautiful hotels, and you can also choose the AirbNb route! The sky is the limit when it comes to choosing your accommodation for the day of your elopement, but don’t forget to try and choose something beautiful so it will enhance your wedding photos!
Book your photographer
Look for a style you like and someone who has extensive experience shooting in Japan (or traveling the world). Seasoned elopement photographers (like myself) have the best abilities to navigate and understand Japanese culture, which is very different from our occidental culture. Your photographer will also help you choose the very best spot for your elopement, and find out about permits if needed, and how to get to different places easily. Choose wisely.
Book your other vendors
They might include a florist, a hair and makeup artist, an officiant, a restaurant…don’t forget this is your wedding, so you might want to splurge especially on the day of your elopement!
Plan your travel
It would be a shame to elope in Japan and not visit around afterwards! Try to find out train routes (the train is the main transport in Japan and the network is very dense) and where you’d like to visit, then plan your travel accordingly!
Live your dream elopement
From start to finish, your elopement is actually your whole travel in Japan. You can include your elopement day into a 2-weeks itinerary, it doesn’t have to be the first day of your travel! Enjoy this amazing adventure together to the fullest!
DOES JAPAN SOUND LIKE YOUR DREAM?
How to plan your peaceful elopement in Japan with me
Let’s dive in, so you can start your journey right away!
Imagine a wedding where you can be you. Breathe. Bask in each other’s love.
Experience a place close to your hearts, or a bucket-list dream.
Are you eager to start planning your elopement in Japan? I’m here to help you envision, plan and immortalize this beautiful adventure! Contact me now for a free consultation!