The ultimate guide to elope in Japan
WITH TIPS. VENUES & LOCATION IDEAS
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 wether 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…
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 handfull 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.
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.
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.
Top 5 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 cristal-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 exchenge 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 feating 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!
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.
What is the cost of an elopement in Japan?
HIGH – END ELOPEMENT
Travel to and from Japan: $2 500
5 nights in a high-end accomodation // $2 500
Elopement photographer // $11 000
Private chef or full board // $1 000
Officiant // $500
Florist // $500
Rentals // $500
Wedding dress and accessories // $4 000
Suit and accessories // $1 000
TOTAL FOR A HIGH – END ELOPEMENT IN JAPAN:
Travel to and from Japan: $2 500
5 nights in an airbnb // $1 000
Elopement photographer // $8 000
Food // $250
Officiant // $250
Florist // $200
Wedding dress and accessories // $2 500
Suit and accessories // $500
TOTAL FOR A BUDGET ELOPEMENT IN JAPAN:
How to plan the perfect ceremony?
Option A: you’re staying very close to your elopement spot
Wether 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 beforehands 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 photograpehr 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 tipycally 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.
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 informations 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 accomodation 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 travelling 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!