No wedding blues to be found in ‘solo bridal’ pics

Hiroshi Tanaka

TOKYO (THE JAPAN NEWS/ANN) – An increasing number of women in Japan are wearing wedding dresses and posing for pictures — alone.

The service, called “solo weddings,” appeared about five years ago.

At first, some people were skeptical about the service, saying, “It’s just too lonely” or “It’s just a passing fad.” But it now has taken various forms, with more women enjoying the practice.

Aim Tokyo Harajuku, a photo studio in Shibuya Ward, Tokyo, launched a website dedicated to solo weddings two years ago.

In late November, Sayaka Takimoto, 30, a medical clerk from Tsukubamirai, Ibaraki Prefecture, and Nabiki Shintani, 30, a company employee from Itabashi Ward, Tokyo, visited the studio for a photo session preparatory meeting.

ABOVE & BELOW:: Sayaka Takimoto, left, and Nabiki Shintani wear wedding dresses for a solo wedding portrait in Shibuya Ward, Tokyo; and Hisako Gotoda, right, speaks to her son before having their photo taken in Ishii, Tokushima Prefecture. PHOTOS: ANN

While telling each other things like, “This design is also great!” or “I want to wear them all,” the two smiled broadly as they picked up their dresses while repeatedly saying, “Cute!” to each other in a fitting room.

The two were classmates in junior high school. Takimoto, who divorced five years ago, asked Shintani to have solo bridal portraits taken together.

“I didn’t take a bridal photo [with my ex-husband] as we got married abruptly. I have no plans to remarry for a while, so I wanted to take a [bridal] photo for my 30th anniversary,” Takimoto said. “But I didn’t have the nerve to come here by myself.”

For her part, Shintani said, “I don’t care about marriage or dresses, but I like wearing a wedding dress as if it were a Halloween costume.”

The shop receives inquiries about the service almost every day. So far, more than 300 women from their 20s to their 60s have used the service.

“An increasing number of people visit our place in groups, as if they are having a women’s party. It seems to attract people, as they can share the fun,” said the shop’s Haruka Ohashi.

Taking photo with son

Some people use the solo wedding portrait service with their families. At Abe Shashinkan photo studio’s main outlet in Ishii, Tokushima Prefecture, Hisako Gotoda, a nurse and single mother from Yoshinogawa in the prefecture, donned a wedding dress and posed with her 13-year-old son for a photo. Her son, Harumi, who wore a suit, is in his first year of junior high school.

Gotoda visits the photo studio every year with Harumi on his birthday, saying, “I want to keep a record of his growth.” After learning the studio takes solo bridal portraits, she chose a dress partially coloured in pink.

She has kept her wedding photos with her ex-husband, but she never looks back, she said. Her son seems nervous about the unusual staging. “I think this is my family’s present form. I felt younger. I also want to thank my son, who reluctantly came with me for a photo,” she said enthusiastically.

The photo studio has branches in Osaka and other places. A woman in her 50s said that when she showed her picture to her mother in her 80s, mother told her, “I thought I wouldn’t ever see you in your wedding dress.”

“I thought I was rewarding myself, but as a result, I did something nice for my mother,” she said.

There are also quite a few people who take bridal photos with their pets, as they are precious family members.

New business opportunity

A travel agency in Kyoto became the talk of the town in 2014 because of its solo wedding package, with a photo shoot and a hotel stay included. With the decrease in the number of marriages and more people who do get married not holding wedding ceremonies, bridal companies have begun to enter the market, seeing the service as a new business opportunity.

What does the public think about this kind of service? Forty-six percent of men and women aged from 22 to 34 supported it in a 2017 survey conducted by the women’s information website Mynavi Woman. The rate fell short of 50 per cent, but the survey showed that the public did not express the negativity that had been expected.

In addition, 20 per cent of women said they are interested in shooting a solo wedding portrait, which suggested that there is a certain demand for this type of business.