Japanese culture is so different from that of the West, and the way the Japanese propose is very different too. I’m going to give some common marriage proposals in Japan which are still popular in 2021. Some of them are a bit outdated, but many Japanese men still dream about saying one of these when they propose to a woman. Women, on the other hand, don’t always dream about these, so be careful when you propose to a Japanese girl!
Many Japanese use more universal words such as “I love you” and “please marry me” too, but I’m going to pick up ones which are peculiar to Japan.
Popular Japanese marriage proposals
“Make me miso soup every day” (毎日味噌汁を作ってください)
I’m sure most of you guys don’t understand how this could be a marriage proposal, but in Showa period (1926 – 1989), cooking and other house chores were wives’ work and a man asking a woman to cook for him every day implied that he wanted her as his wife. Also, miso (soybean paste) soup is a very important part of the Japanese diet and people used to eat it every morning. Asking a woman to cook such an important dish every day could also imply that the man gives full trust in the woman I guess. If you don’t believe that this could be a marriage proposal, Google “定番 プロポーズ 味噌汁” (classic proposals miso soup) and you will get tons of results (one of the articles I referred to is this).
However, this is rather outdated and most modern Japanese girls don’t like this proposal, so be careful if you want to propose to a Japanese girl. It’s only men who dream of having a wife who makes them miso soup every morning and no women want to serve their husbands like servants.
Some young Japanese men say, instead of asking their girlfriends to cook for them, “let me make you miso soup every morning” and make their girlfriends laugh. This is a new variant of the proposal. And my Japanese hubby makes me miso soup every morning too 😍 (No, he didn’t say “let me make you miso soup” lol)
“Let’s lie in the same grave” (僕と同じ墓に入ってください)
When a married Japanese couple dies, they usually join the husband’s family grave together because Japanese wives are considered to belong to husbands’ families. A man asking a women to join his family grave therefore means he wants her to join his family by marrying him.
While some Japanese girls like this proposal because it makes the idea of marriage more realistic, others don’t because they don’t like the idea of joining their husbands’ families after marriage. Just like some girls don’t like the previous example where women are asked to cook every day, modern Japanese women are becoming more independent and they don’t want to obey anyone – not even their husbands nor their parents (some Japanese parents abuse their sons’ wives because they think wives belong to them and they are at their disposal).
By the way, the Japanese don’t bury a coffin under a grave but they put urns of the family members in a family grave. Unlike the Western culture in which people bury the dead in a coffin, the Japanese cremate the dead and put the remaining bones in an urn.
“Follow me for the rest of your life” (一生俺について来い)
This is one of the outdated but still popular proposal among certain Japanese people. As Japanese men are expected to be manly and to lead women, some men say “don’t say anything and just follow me for the rest of your life” because they think that’s manly. And many women like the manly spirit. I don’t know, I prefer a man who walks with me rather than one who leads me (and I’m married to a Japanese man who walks with me), but this is Japan.
In Showa period, women were supposed to walk three steps behind men and they were literally required to follow men. 🙄
“I will not make you starve”（生活には困らせない）
In Japan, marriage is more like fulfilling responsibilities than getting together with the loved one. Of course people marry because they love their fiances/fiancees, but at the same time many Japanese think that love alone isn’t sufficient for marriage. Men have to earn enough to feed their families, and women have to raise their children.
Now, as men feel that they have to feed their wives, some of them say “I won’t make you starve” or “I won’t make you live a hard life with me” when they propose to a woman.
I’m not sure what Japanese women feel about this proposal, but at least I’m sure that more than 30% of unmarried Japanese women want to become a housewife once they marry (see more details in this Japanese article) and many of them want their future husbands to earn twice as much as average.
“Please wash my underwear” (僕の下着を洗ってください)
This is a variant of “cook me miso soup every day,” but some famous Japanese baseball player and comedian said this when they proposed to their wives. I would like you to see the miso soup section if you need explanation, but it’s something like a woman washing a man’s underwear means they are married and this is an indirect way of proposing to a woman.
Like the miso soup proposal, I’m sure most Japanese women won’t be happy about this one, so don’t use it even if you are planning to propose to a Japanese woman.
In the above picture, the man is playing a game while the woman is carrying laundry. This is a very common scene in Japan.
“I want to eat your home cooking for the rest of my life” (これからずっとあなたの手料理が食べたいです)
This is another variant of the miso soup proposal. Many Japanese men dream of having a wife who cooks every day for them while women want their husbands to cook as well as they do. One of the biggest disagreements between men and women. 😂
“Will you change your family name to mine?” (僕の名字に変えてもらえませんか？)
In Japan, couples have to choose either husband’s or wife’s family name upon marriage and it’s not allowed for married couples to use separate family names. You can choose your wife’s family name if you like, but interestingly enough, 96-97% of Japanese couples choose husbands’ names (see this article for more details). Many Japanese even think that the law requires women to change their family names when they marry.
Now, as most Japanese men think that women need to change their family names upon marriage, some of them say “will you change your family name to mine” when they propose to a woman. And many Japanese women like this proposal because it makes them realize that they will get together with the men they love.
There have been active debates about the majority of women forced to change their family names, but according to this survey, 66％ of unmarried Japanese women want to change their family names when they marry.
“Will you marry me?” (in English)
Not many Japanese speak English, but most of them think English is cool and they use it everywhere – from street signs, T-shirts, fashion goods to food packaging, Japan is full of “Engrish” (not always “English”).
And because some Japanese boys want to make their proposals special, they say “will you marry me?” in English to their girlfriends because it’s cool. In fact I heard some Japanese girls bragging that their fiances proposed to them saying “will you marry me?” (and the fiances don’t speak English)
“Please follow me to my new work place far from here” (転勤先に付いてきてください)
Japanese workers have to relocate often, especially when they work for bigger companies with a lot of branch offices. Companies often offer their employees a position in their branch offices as a promotion and employees just have to relocate to work in the far-away branch office.
Now, assume that a man who is about to propose to a woman was offered a position in a far-away office. Because he will be promoted and will earn more money, he will proudly say to his girlfriend “please follow me to my new work place which is far from here.” Some women don’t want to quit their jobs and don’t follow their future husbands, but many are happy that their fiances are promoted and follow them without pursuing their own careers.
“When do you want to greet our parents?” (いつ両親に挨拶する？)
As you might know, the Japanese don’t like to explicitly say what they have in mind in general. This applies to marriage proposals too, and some Japanese men indirectly propose to their girlfriends saying “well, when do you think will be the right timing to greet our parents?” instead of saying “will you marry me?”
While many girls prefer more explicit and direct proposals, others are happy that their boyfriends have finally made up their minds and marry them. But I wouldn’t recommend this because it’s not quite a proper proposal.
What do Japanese women say about marriage proposals?
But what do Japanese women say about marriage proposals? According to this article, here are the most/least popular proposals.
Most popular proposals among Japanese women
The 5 best proposals that women want men to say are as follows:
- Please marry me (結婚してください)
- Please be with me forever (ずっと一緒にいてほしい)
- I will make you happy for the rest of your life (一生幸せにします)
- I would like to walk with you until we become grandpa and grandma (おじいちゃんとおばあちゃんになるまで共に歩んでいきたい)
- Follow me! (俺についてきてくれ！)
Interestingly, none of the 10 proposals I mentioned come here. The reason for this is that, while quite a good number of Japanese men want their wives to join their families and do all house chores, women don’t always want to hear these down-to-earth things in such a romantic moment but they prefer more universal and loving proposals.
However, as I mentioned above, many women still love proposals like “please change your family name” or “let’s lie in the same grave” and these proposals not making the top 5 doesn’t mean they are not popular.
Least popular proposals among Japanese women
And here are the 3 worst proposals:
- Make me miso soup every day (毎日みそ汁を作ってほしい)
- Want to try to marry? (結婚してみる？)
- Um, isn’t it time to be… like together, how about it? (あの、そろそろ一緒にさ…どうかな？)
As you might have guessed, the one I mentioned at the very beginning of this article is considered the worst proposal among Japanese women. Like I said, only men dream about their wives cooking for them every day but modern independent women don’t. If you ask a Japanese woman to make you miso soup every morning, I’m sure you will piss her off. The reason I included it in the 10 popular proposals is because this is so Japanese and some men still use it.
The second and third ones are bad because they are too ambiguous and don’t feel any determination.
Although these 10 proposals are not quite practical, I hope this post was of interest. As I explained, while many Japanese men still use these words for marriage proposal, I’d say these are rather outdated and many women are not always happy about them. If you want to propose to a Japanese woman, think twice before you use one of these examples!