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Age of Marriage in Japan -Legal and average ages

marriage in Japan

Age of Marriage in Japan- Legal and average ages

Legal marriage age in Japan

What is the legal age for marriage in Japan? The legal age for marriage in Japan is 18 for both men and women. Until recently, the legal age for marriage was 18 for men and 16 for women, but on April 1, 2022, the age at which women can marry was raised to 18 because of the revision of the Civil Code. In Japan, both men and women must now be at least 18 to marry.

Civil Code Article 731:

Before the revision: “A man must be 18 years old and a woman must be 16 years old to be able to marry.”

After the revision: “Marriage is not possible until the age of 18.”

Originally, there was a difference in the legal ages of marriage between men and women because of the importance placed on mental and physical maturity. It was believed that the degree of mental and physical development differed between men and women and that women developed faster.

As times changed, however, an emphasis has increasingly been placed on social experience and one’s economic ability to support a family.

The social and economic maturity necessary to live together as a couple should not differ between men and women. Therefore, many came to believe that it was not appropriate to set two different marriage ages – one for men and one for women.

In addition, the United Nations has long called on the Japanese government to eliminate this difference between men and women.

The age of marriage was first set in Japan 124 years ago, in 1898. At that time, the marriage ages were 17 for men and 15 for women. Then, in 1947, soon after the end of the war, the Civil Code was amended to raise the age for both men and women by one year, to 18 for men and 16 for women. With the recent revision of the law in 2022, the age of marriage has been set at 18, eliminating the differences between men and women.

Can high school students marry each other?

Yes, they can marry without parental consent as long as both parties to the marriage agree.

Number of births by underage women

Because the number of women under 18 who married due to pregnancy has been less than 2,000 per year over the years, the societal impact of raising the age at which women can marry from 16 to 18 is limited.

However, some argue that although the number is small, one must take into account the newborns to whom women under the age of 18 give birth.

Change of legal marriage age in Civil Code  

Year  Men Women
1898  17 15
1947 (first amendment)  18 16
2022 (second amendment)  18 18

Prior to 1898 and during the Edo period, there was no general rule regarding the age of marriage.

Average age of marriage in Japan

According to the most recent data from the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, the average ages of first marriage in 2018 were 31.2 years for men and 29.6 years for women. The age with the highest number of first marriages for women was 26. Compared to 1995, the average age of first marriage increased by 2.7 years for men and 3.3 years for women.

Custody of Children Born to Unmarried Minor Women:

Custody of a child born to an unmarried minor woman is usually given to the woman who gave birth to the child (“vicarious custody”). In other words, the maternal grandparents of the child generally obtain custody. To become the custodian, the woman who gave birth to the child must wait until she turns 20 years old.

Changes in average age of marriage:


  Year     Men    Women
  1908     26.8     22.9
  1927     27.2     23.1
  1965     27.2     24.5
  1990     28.4     25.9
  2000     28.8     27.0


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