Japanese Wedding Vernacular: Dekichatta Kekkon

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YJ and I are tying the knot this week (at least on paper—the ceremony will come later) and so it’s quite natural that my brain is turning its thoughts to marriage and weddings and such. <-Note that I’m not thinking about it, my brain is doing something entirely involuntary. Can’t be helped. ^^;

While I’ve never been gaga over wedding dreams (I much preferred imagining being married than focusing on just one day), I suppose I shall have to at least buck up some motivation ahead of our ceremony. (Ceremonies? All undecided. YJ and I such enthusiastic planners!) In any case, I like to see any new venture as a learning experience, and I thought I’d share some interesting wedding lingo that I’ve picked up while living in Japan. And to start us off:



Dekichatta Kekkon


Direct translation: “Got pregnant marriage”.

Translation that makes sense: “Shotgun wedding”.

(Short form: デキコン / Dekikon)

This is something that is surprisingly common in Japan. Although the term “shotgun wedding” is often considered synonymous with teen pregnancies or college students, in Japan young age isn’t as much of a factorーconversely, it’s often those in their late twenties and thirties that seem to get hitched when the girlfriend falls pregnant. It surprised me at first because in Sweden having a baby doesn’t necessary presume a couple will get married—ever. There are specific words for longterm partners: sambo (if you live with them) and saerbo (if you live apart). It’s kind of the more “adult” and “serious relationship” version of boyfriend/girlfriend. It’s also not gender specific, which means same sex partners don’t have to out themselves in front of people they don’t want to… without using the term “partner”. Personally I find the latter word awkward and impersonal when applied to personal relationships, but that’s just me.

So why do many Japanese couples choose to get married when they’re expecting? For many, it’s purely for practical reasons. The Japanese healthcare and taxation systems are extremely generous to conventional families—if you’re married with kids, you get some sweet tax breaks.

More importantly, it simplifies the process for recording child’s birth in the family register, or koseki. The koseki is a family record of births, deaths, marriages and includes members of the whole family, not just the individual. Most importantly it certifies Japanese citizenship and acts as a birth certificate as well. While it may seem practical to have all that information in one place, it can also be troublesome for some non-conventional families.

Children are usually registered under the father’s koseki, so for unwed mothers , divorcees, or those with “illegitimate children” it can become a point of discrimination when applying for preschools or being active in PTA (Parent Teacher Association) groups. This is because the information included in the koseki is very detailed, and until 2008 almost anyone was able to obtain this informationーeven if they were not related to the family/person in question. School personnel, parents with children in the same class, the next door neighbor were all able to find out ifーfor example, an unwed mother was lying to save face when she said the father of the child had died, or they divorced soon after the child was born. Nosy parkers would be able to veto a child’s application to a certain preschool, or discriminate against them in other ways. The system change in 2008 put severe restrictions on who can apply to see a particular koseki to avoid situations like this.

(Side note: there’s a special section in the koseki for “illegitimate children”, i.e., children out of wedlock. Even if the man has a child through an extramarital affair, the child can be legally registered as his. According to a friend of mine who used to work at a legal office, this particular section could be very troublesome when it came to inheritance issues.)

Regarding family planning issues (because I suspect this will come up), while it’s fine to note that Japanese women don’t tend to use the Pillーwhich by the way, is only 91% effective in reality (as opposed to the 99% reported in clinical trials where women are paid to take them regimentally)ーpredominantly due to the fact that the Pill is still relatively new to Japan, not to mention that since it’s a prescription-based medicine and thus illegal to advertise it.  However, this doesn’t mean that family planning isn’t at the forefront of their mindsーcondoms count for 80% of the contraceptive market in Japan. (And are more effective in preventing STDs! Woohoo! Keep safe and have fun!)


In short, the reason many couples decide to tie the knot “just because” they’re having a child is often, at large, for practical and financial reasons.



For more reading on koseki and dekichatta kekkon, check out these links:

Overview of the Japanese koseki system

Children born to Japanese fathers out of wedlock

Japanese drama series titled “Dekichatta Kekkon”


Also, since I’m sure there are inquiring minds: YJ and I are not planning a dekichatta kekkon. (。≖ิ‿≖ิ)

Japanese Wedding Vernacular: Narita Rikon

Japanese Wedding Vernacular: Jukunen Rikon

Japanese Wedding Vernacular: Konkatsu

8 responses to “Japanese Wedding Vernacular: Dekichatta Kekkon”

  1. […] and other social circles. (Many PTA groups can be rather vocal about things they don’t like—this includes single mothers; remember dekichatta kekkon?) Also, even though they could endure it for some years, the trust has disappeared in the […]

  2. Nina says:

    Congrats on your marriage 😀 <3

  3. I think it is the same in Taiwan as well. I know a couple of cases of shot gun weddings – the couple are in their later 20’s or early 30’s, the woman is pregnant, and the couple is pressure by the family, particularly their parents, to get married. I also think it has something to do with keeping ‘face’ as well. Maybe the couple and their families are look down upon if the child enters the world and the parents are unwed. And like you said, I would never thing anything of an unwed woman having a baby in Canada, as it is more acceptable.

    • Yes, true. Also I feel I’m more likely to make the distinction between “unwed” and “single” mother. Just because you’re married doesn’t necessarily mean you’re alone raising the child. I saw Newsweek did a stat check on single moms worldwide a few years ago and Sweden came up at 50%ーbut they failed to check whether the mothers were in a relationship or not. :/ Unwed =/= single.

  4. […] covered the wonders of shotgun weddings and why they’re a good idea for Japanese citizens last week, but what of the “other” […]

  5. Marta says:

    Ooooh congrats!! Are you getting used to refer to him as husband? I think that would be the hardest for me haha.

    Same in China regarding shotgun weddings: if you got a bump, you got a wedding. I think children can’t be registered if the parents are not married.

    Someone told me recently that Chinese people think if you take the pill you will become infertile forever. Yes, sexual education here is pretty much nonexistent. A couple of weeks ago my ex colleagues informed me that several officemates had aborted recently because they got pregnant and they already have one kid and can’t have more (one child policy). Because, everybody knows that having an abortion is way better and easier that using one of the many contraceptives available…

    • Thank you! 😀 Hmm, not yet. It feels weird to say until I’ve signed the papers I guess…. then again, it may feel weird for a while after too, haha! Everyone at his work thinks we’re already married though so on his side it’s easy. XD

      That’s pretty strict rulesーdoes it have to do with the one child policy as well I wonder? I assume by the couple marrying it (at least openly) prevents a man from getting around the rule and having several offspring with several women? <-Maybe just a weird thought from me, haha

      Oh dear, I guess there's still a long way to go in many respects. :/ Hopefully that knowledge will become more and more widespreadーit would make sense especially withthe one child policy you'd think. Cheaper, less invasive.

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