Japanese Marriage Tradition


Some Japanese still have arranged marriages. A meeting arranged with a view to marriage is called omiai. Most young people these days seem to prefer to find a partner by themselves, but many still feel secure when their parents or a go-between or a match-making company presents a suitable person

The go-between could be a professional matchmaker, a friend, relatives or the parents themselves. They find out everything about the prospective marriage partners to make sure that they are basically compatible. They bring photos to show to both families. If both families and the young people agree, the go-between arranges a meeting, perhaps at a restaurant or a coffee shop.

If the first meeting is successful, and both sides agree to meet again, a second meeting may be arranged. After that, the young people may make further arrangements as they please. If by any chance one side does not want a second meeting, the go-between is told and he will inform the other side. This avoids undue embarrassment. They can also break up after several meetings take place. Arranged marriages seem to work well. It is probable that they are successful because they have parental support and that the social, economic and educational background of the couples is well matched. In olden times, matchmakers arranged marriages, and that was it. The young people getting married had no say in the matter.



If the couple decides to get married after many meetings, they exchange gifts and decide on a suitable date. The fourth of the month is definitely out. 四 ‘shi’ means ‘four’ but 死 ‘shi’ means ‘death’. Thus four is an unlucky number. Hospitals do not have a fourth floor or a room number four.

Many people get married Spring and Autumn because the weather is good at these times. The wedding may be held in a hotel function room or a special function centre with a shine, and a Shinto priest to carry out the ceremony. Some young couples like to get married at a church, in full western style dress.

The bride wears an elaborate tradition kimono with designs of cranes. She has a large wig (few girls would have sufficient hair of their own) arranged in the traditional style. Her face is painted white and she is made up to look ver much like a doll. She wears a ceremonial white veil and in her hair, she wears smaller pine tree boughs carved from a tortoise shell. The pine tree, tortoise and crane live for a long time. The symbolism is obvious. These days the bride may simply wear a large tsunokakushi (the bride’s hood) that covers the entire head except for the face. There is no wig or elaborate make-up. The groom may wear a traditional kimono and hakama (long pleated pants), but some wear a formal western suit.

After the formal ceremony, the bride changes out of the ceremonial dress and into a lighter kimono for the reception. This may be held at home (in a large country house), at a reception centre, or a hotel. There is eating, drinking, speeches and formal toasts. After that, the bride again changes, this time into a white western dress, and mingles with the guests in a less formal way.

The guests bring presents for the bride and groom. These presents are usually money. As the guests leave, they are each given a present by the host. After that, the bride again changes and it is time for the newlyweds to go off on their honeymoon.

Topic 5 Unit 2: Accommodation, Sightseeing and Weather


At the end of this unit, you will:

  • enhance your understanding of the Japanese seasons and weather,
  • enhance your understanding of tourist attractions in Japan,
  • enhance your understanding of various accommodation options in Japan,
  • be able to book accommodation and ask about the facilities,
  • be able to ask and talk about tourist attractions,
  • be able to justify your behaviour and
  • be able to ask and talk about the weather and season.


  1. Expand!
  2. Vocabulary
  3. Kanji
  4. Reserving accommodation

Japanese Verb Conjugation

Polite and Plain Forms

In Japanese, there are polite and plain forms of speech.
In plain speech, you use the dictionary form of verbs, but in polite speech, you use the ーです and ーます forms of verbs. Plain speech is used between friends and family, while polite speech is used when you speak to seniors and strangers.

We will focus on using polite forms in the first stages of the course and will gradually learn to use the plain forms.

However, it is still extremely important you know how plain forms are formed.
Plain forms are also called ‘dictionary forms‘. As the name suggests, when you want to look up the meaning of a verb, they are not written as ーます forms in the dictionary. Rather, they appear in the plain form.

Therefore, in this lesson, we will aim to gain an overall understanding about how verbs conjugate for various meanings.

Verb Groups

There are three (3) grouping of Japanese verbs and the rules of inflection. Once you understand the Japanese verbs and their inflections, using them will become much easier.

Let’s assume that ーます form is the foundation of all verbs. 

For example, たべます, ねます, のみます, and かえります.

VERB STEM = ます form verb – ます

What does this mean? Take a look at たべます for instance.

たべます is the ます form, and its verb stem is the form without ます. Therefore, the verb stem is たべ.

In other words, if you write this out as a mathematical equation:

たべます=ます form
verb stem = ます form – ます
= たべます – ます
= たべ

∴ verb stem of たべます = たべ

Group 1

Verbs in this group have a verb stem that ends in a い sound (2nd column of the hiragana chart).

This includes verbs such as:

  • ます to buy
  • ます to listen
  • およます to swim
  • はなます to speak
  • ます to stand

Group 2

The rest of the verbs are in Group 2 including any verbs with only 1 syllable in the verb stem.

  • ます to see
  • ます to eat
  • ます to sleep

Group 3

Finally, Group 3 verbs are irregular. Unfortunately, there are no specific rules to remember these, so you just have to memorise these.

  • きます(来ます)to come
  • します to do
  • いきます(行きます)to go

There are more in these group, but let’s stick to the above three for now.


Practice Activity

Consider the following verbs. Determine whether they are Group 1, 2 or 3 verbs.

  • なきます
  • あそびます
  • たべます
  • よみます
  • なめます
  • きます
  • みます


Plain Forms

Now you know how to determine the stem of a verb and the corresponding groups. We can then apply the following rules to conjugate ーます form into its ‘dictionary form’.

Group 1

Change the い sound of the verb stem to the corresponding う sound. 

For example, the verb stem of かいます, かい, ends in a い sound. You need to change the い sound to the corresponding う sound on the same row of the hiragana chart. Therefore, the dictionary form of かいます is かう.

Here are some more to help you understand:

  • およぎます → およぎ → およぐ
  • しにます → しに → しぬ
  • よみます → よみ → よむ


Group 2

Simply add る to the verb stem.

  • たべます → たべ → たべる
  • みます → み → みる


Group 3

Remember the following:

  • きます(来ます) → くる (来る)
  • します      → する
  • いきます     → いく

Polite Form Conjugations

ーます form is the present/future positive form of any verbs. This means that the verb or the action IS HAPPENING or WILL HAPPEN. Japanese do not have a future tense, therefore, you will need to decipher this from the context.

  • よく本をよみます。I often read books.
  • 二じにともだちにあいます。I will meet my friend at 2 O’Clock.

Negative Present

Add ません to the verb stem.

  • たべます (I eat)  → たべません (I don’t eat)
  • かきます (I write)    → かきません (I don’t write)


Past Positive

Add ました to the verb stem.

  • みます (I see)      → みました (I saw)
  • あそびます (I play)  → あそびました (I played)


Past Negative

Add でした to the negative present.
I.E Add ませんでした to the verb stem.

  • はなします (I speak)    → はなしませんでした (I did not speak)
  • ねます (I sleep)       → ねませんでした (I did not sleep)