Wedding rings in Japan and that mismatched couple

Mismatched wedding rings and the stranger

“Why are your wedding rings different?”

The young woman had a wide open face with an easy smile that stretched from ear to ear. Her lanky frame arched over a crossed leg that swung back and forth.

Everyone in the registry office could hear her business as well as her question.

I stared back with my own easy grin, because that’s what I do when I’m caught off guard.

“So? They’re different! How come? You two are married, aren’t you?”

standing too close to each other

We’re married, right?
(Although Hitoshi’s mom still has rules about being too close in public.)

My husband and I were seated next to her at the health care section. We were newly arrived to Canada and a tad confused. The table we shared with inquisitive lady had no privacy divider and staff helped us at the same time.

I felt uncomfortable. Our rings were not obvious. She had to have given us a pretty thorough once-over!

Maybe this wasn’t the first time a stranger had noticed our mismatched rings but it was definitely the first time anyone had said anything.

Weddings rings in Japan

Hitoshi and I met, dated and married in Japan. When we looked for rings in 2007, diamonds for wedding bands were not common. Engagement rings were not used at all.

Marriage was symbolized with a narrow, plain gold band worn on the left ring finger for men and women. If the hands of our recently married friends in typical occupations (i.e. office jobs) are any indication, this style of ring is still the standard.

Japanese standard work photo

vintage salaryman

As for non-typical occupations? You’re free!

One of Hitoshi’s oldest friends is part of a long line of barbers. He owns his salon and his wife is a hair dresser there.

While Hitoshi’s friend is incredibly respectful and knows the rules, he also breaks them with tattoos, wild hair that fits his profession (but not salaryman style – see above) and very unconventional, custom-made wedding rings.

Despite Hitoshi working in a hardcore salaryman job with hair to match, marrying a loud Canadian with strong views and a habit of speaking what little Japanese she knew in an unladylike manner plopped us firmly into the non-typical category.

entrance to Sanjusangendou

Entrance to Sanjusangendou, Kyoto

Ring rules

When we decided to become a permanent couple before the Mismatched Ring Incident, my main reference for the engagement and marriage end of relationships was from growing up in Canada.

The Canada way is usually a diamond engagement ring for the woman and nothing for the man. The wedding band tends to fit neatly with the engagement ring and the man more often than not has a matching wedding band. Rings are usually worn on the left hand but some couples wear them on the right.

I did not place a carefully folded magazine clipping of my hoped-for future engagement ring in my wallet from the time I was 18. I did not pour over wedding magazines the instant I got a sniff of potential marriage. I had no idea about styles, fittings, diamonds or carrots, oops! carats.

two kids holding hands

We like each other a lot!

Now, don’t get the wrong idea. I spent an awful lot of time as a teen pouring through the jewelry section of flyers and the Sears catalogue. It’s hard to ignore all that sparkle! But I was clueless otherwise.

Despite my lack of… preparation, when it came time to choose my wedding ring, I had parameters.

I did want a diamond because, well, uh, well… because that’s what you’re supposed to have! (baaaaaaaaa….)

I also wanted a flat setting. Ostentatious rocks waiting to pounce and snag anything within a 10km radius were not me.

I thought an engagement ring was a waste of money. Why not wear one ring from the start?

And I wanted something different.

The man chooses his ring in 5 minutes flat

The day we got engaged, we went ring shopping. It was convenient and we were bubbling with excitement!

Hitoshi headed straight for an accessories store. It had a casual, dark and edgy vibe. Looking in a glass case, he saw a ring he liked and asked to try it on.

The middle section was black and etched with a continuous pattern that looked like waves. It was sandwiched between two narrow bands of raised silver.

It fit, Hitoshi paid, done.

stuffed beaver

Sealing the deal

Coincidence and Connection – the woman’s turn

Choosing a ring mere hours after getting engaged didn’t work for me but I made my own quick choice a few weeks later.

scary Ferris Wheel

I’m not ready!

The first place Hitoshi and I chose in my ruralish city was barely big enough for the two of us and the older woman behind the counter.

Hitoshi and I noticed early in our relationship that we had a knack for crazy connections, coincidence and serendipity. This day was no exception.

One comment led to another and while this woman could not help us with a ring, she told us to visit her relative down the street.

Like before, we started chatting with the owner and he told us his wife was Canadian and a teacher. Wow! Just like me!

recipes for young adults book

But not a cooking teacher, either.

More similarities tumbled forth and we knew this was where we would buy my ring.

I settled on a stainless steel band with a single diamond in an angled tension setting. While my choice was not in stock, it might be elsewhere in Japan. Perfect!

Almost.

Bad omens and rising superstition

The ring I wanted ended up being special ordered.

The day after Hitoshi paid for it, I went online to find out more about the maker.

Strangely, little came up in English or Japanese, except for one page that made my stomach sink like a giant rock.

I read and reread the homepage for the jewelry maker.

Dead. Dead?!

The president of the small Austrian company we had just bought my wedding ring from had been murdered by an unknown assailant at his home office only days before.

Should we return the ring? This was bad!

But I loved my choice. And this terrible news had nothing to do with me.

We stuck with the ring and treated the unpleasant information as wacky timing with a very sad incident.

Mismatched Legacy

thank you toe socks

Thank you for noticing!

Neither of us can remember why we chose mismatched rings. Having different bands didn’t bother me until it was pointed out so directly. I became a little self-conscious but it didn’t change anything then or now.

We love each other. We love our rings. And should someone ask again, I will give a big smile, hand over the link to this post and say, “because, just because.”

wedding rings from Japan

our rings – over eight years later
bumped and scuffed but still going strong

What do you think? Do you prefer matched or do-as-you-wish wedding bands? What is common where you live?

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50 thoughts on “Wedding rings in Japan and that mismatched couple

  1. My husband and I have mismatching rings as well. However, they are the both white gold. My engagement ring and my wedding band are not a set either. My husband made the perfect choice with a single diamond engagement ring – simple design and a perfect choice for me. I chose the wedding band with some diamonds, well because, it is totally me as well. It is unfortunate that I don’t really wear my rings all the time now. My engagement ring once got hooked in a student’s shirt when they ran past me. Luckily, nothing happened to the ring but now, I never wear them when teaching.

    Your rings are gorgeous. Sometimes people think too much. They are not matching rings – so what?

  2. I plan on using my engagement ring as my wedding band as well! Why spend more money? My fiance picked out one that has lots of diamonds but looks like a wedding band because he knows how clumsy I am, and I want to honor his choice. We might get his to match, but if he wants a different style, it doesn’t matter much ^^ you two are so cute!

    • So true! Why spend the money if one ring can do the trick, right? That’s sweet that your fiance picked out something for you. Did you talk about it or did he drop hints to find out what you wanted?? And I think a congrats is in order for your engagement?? 😀

      • He picked it all by himself haha! The other day some lady asked me why he didn’t get me a big one but it means more to me that he spent time picking one while thinking of me. And thank you!! ^^

  3. The most common in Germany are matching rings for the bride and groom. The bride’s ring sometimes has some sort of stone or something in the way of more elaborate decoration … I like your choice of rings, and after all, it’s all about you and not about other people’s expectations.

  4. I really enjoy this post. I love your wedding rings ! But I’m a bit confused, so you chose all your rings ? Hitoshi never bought the engagement for you ? to make a surprise ?

    I don’t think we’ll ever wear matching ring, I don’t think he will wear a ring at all since he’s a doctor 🙂 It’s forbidden in the hospital.

    • Thanks much! Ha ha! Yes, we both chose our own rings and Hitoshi paid for both. That’s a great point about the surprise factor. I can’t recall if we talked about it but I remember Hitoshi saying he wanted me to be happy and thought it was best for me to choose and I was happy with that. I’ve known quite a few couples where the ring *was* a surprise and it was so fun to do that. But I wasn’t kidding when I wrote about the woman carrying a picture in her wallet of her dream engagement ring. (That was an old co-worker.) And another friend from high school had her rings picked out shortly after she started dating her hubby-to-be. I take it you’d prefer a surprise??

      By the way, I grew up with it absolutely ingrained that the man pays for the woman’s ring(s). It wasn’t until I ran into a coworker in the bathroom (where all good conversations take place) that I was jogged out of my fog. She was American and married to a German. They had moved from the US for her to work at the company where I worked in Japan and she had previously lived in Germany. Make sense? 😀 Anyway, she had multiple influences on her wedding ideas, like me. She wanted a ring because that’s how she was raised but her husband didn’t want a ring and wouldn’t wear one. Her hubby bought her wedding ring and she bought her hubby an expensive watch. That got me thinking that I should buy Hitoshi something that he would like but that hasn’t happened yet. So much for me being consistently egalitarian. Ha! What have you seen so far with paying for rings?

      Good point about certain professions not allowing rings! Maybe he could get a tattoo. Hee hee!

      • For me, my engagement ring was a complete surprise. The ring was too big, (5 sizes too big :p) but the design was perfect. After our trip to Iceland (where he proposed to me), we went to adjust it and now it fits perfectly. I wouldn’t have liked to chose it myself, for me.. it would have ruined the meaning. It’s weird to explain. I wanted him being able to figure out my taste. It show commitment 😀

        He doesn’t have an engagement ring since it’s not really a custom for men here to wear a ring for the engagement period.

        For me, it’s logical the man pays for the ring, but sometimes, for a special birthday like 30-40-50 years old, it could be good to buy an expensive watch. Me, I bought him an engraved stethoscope 🙂

        • That’s amazing! I understand what you mean about your hubby-to-be choosing the engagement ring for you to show his knows your taste. Hmmm…. I wonder what Hitoshi would pick for me? 😀 I’ll have to ask him.

          I wonder if there is anywhere where a man wears an engagement ring??

          Ha ha! An engraved stethoscope is a great idea! Did the engraving say, “Listen with your heart”? ;P

  5. First off – I love BOTH your rings. They are clearly original and will always be unique – that’s special!

    Second – Matching rings, no rings, should be entirely your choice. If you are both happy, nuttin’ else matters. 🙂

    • Thanks, dear! One of the coolest ring sets (and marriages) I’ve seen was where a couple eloped and went to somewhere with a beach (forgot where!) that turned later into their honeymoon destination. Each of them spent the day alone in different parts of the beach thinking of their vows and upcoming commitment to each other and *carving* their own rings from wood. How cool is that?! They found two people who would witness their vows and someone to do the ceremony to make it official the next day.

        • Right, eh?! This is *the* most romantic wedding I’ve ever heard of. It gives me tingles! On the other hand, this could be turned into a hilarious comic sketch with all the ways the carving could go wrong. ;P I actually did have a wooden ring that only needed sanding and I started working on it with the intention of suggestion to Hitoshi to do the same but quickly gave up on that. Ha ha!

          • Haha! Yeah.. I think my carving skills suck so no way could replicate. Besides – who wants to repeat someone else’s crazy romantic wedding? Make your own memories.

            At one point, my partner joked if we ever bothered to officially tie the knot, we should rent a theatre, put on a great big show inviting the gift of a performance rather than anything else (or donate to a charity of choice if not a performer in real life). Essentially one giant variety show with our favourite folks! Considering some friends fill stadiums, the quality would be worth enjoying rather than cringing… A mad splash or merriment. 🙂

  6. My husband and I have the same rings though we wear them on opposite ring fingers. And we didn’t do an engagement ring because we knew we’d get married even before we physically met (long story) so it didn’t seem necessary. So I’m all for doing whatever you want when it comes to rings, the wedding and etc. 🙂

    • Hi Sandra! That’s really interesting about wearing your rings on opposite fingers. I’m so curious to know more details! I knew a couple who used the right hand for religious reasons and I think another said they just preferred the right hand. And now you’ve *really* piqued my curiosity about getting married before meeting. Will there be a post about that some time or have you already written one??

      • In Norway it’s customary to wear wedding rings on the right hand which we were both planning on doing. A few days before the wedding we realized my husband’s ring wouldn’t fit on his right ring finger but it would on his left and so, not having time to have it resized,that’s what we went with. A very mundane reason I’m afraid, lol. And to clarify, we didn’t get married before meeting but we both knew early on in the relationship, which began online, that we would end up married.

        • What a great reason, even if it’s mundane. 😀 Sometimes getting a ring resized can be a pain, eh? And thanks for the clarification. That’s incredible that you knew early on that you’d get married. Was it anything in particular or just a feeling that all the pieces fell into place? It must have been incredible to meet in person for the first time!

          • I think we both knew before most people would think it would be possible to know, if that makes any sense. There wasn’t any one thing to point out and say that was it, it was more a feeling. The first time we met was incredible, nerve wracking, anxiety inducing, thrilling and a whole host of other stuff thrown in for good measure.

  7. Ours are mismatched as well. We bought our engagement and wedding bands in China. Usually it took around several days to get the ring for my wife and around 10min for my. We only tried to find similar colors but the styles are totally different, perhaps I will have a post about it as well at some point

  8. In the UK, it’s not generally heard if to have matching rings! I picked my ring, he picked his! It’s interesting to hear about different international wedding cultures!

      • I think diamonds are still popular for engagement rings, but not generally stones for wedding rings. I have a platinum wedding ring to fit my engagement ring and he has a brushed white gold ring.

        • Ooo! Platinum is supposed to be gorgeous. How has it worn? While the stainless steel looks nice and smooth on the inside of mine, the outside is very scratched. I guess if I’d done my research, I would have found that out. 🙂

          • Mine has worn well – it develops a “patina” – tiny tiny scratches from wear, which dulls it a little, but mine are still very shiny.

            Apparently I was told by the jeweller that when you polish and wear gold and silver they actually wear away a little, and I can see from my grandma’s 100 year old wedding ring that it has become so thin that it will likely break if I wear it anymore. Apparently, platinum doesn’t wear away when scratched or polished, it just “moves around” so it will never become thin. That’s what they told me anyway!

            • That’s interesting about the tiny scratches. Is there a special way to clean platinum?

              I didn’t know that about the gold and silver wearing away although it makes sense. My parents bought me a diamond ring when I was in my mid-teens. I chose a setting where the band narrowed to points at the microscopic diamond. Later in university, I somehow managed to catch my ring on a door handle. The ring bent easily and luckily my finger stayed in one piece! I also had a silver ring that I could eventually bent in half. I was surprised, not having any idea how soft those two metals are!

          • In fact, as a result of this, I’ve just gone and googled marriage records for my gran and grandad and found out that they were married in March 1928. 🙂 I never knew that. So my gran’s gold wedding ring is nearly 90.

            Thank you for starting this post, I would probably not googled that if you hadn’t 😀

  9. Oh no! How uncomfortable. But strange that the rings must match. In Australia anything goes 😉 But same as Canada mostly – diamond engagement and then wedding to match. But the groom’s doesn’t have to match the bride’s. Yours are very cool.

    • Thanks! And interesting about non-matching in AU, too! I thought we were weird but it’s fun to hear that it’s the norm elsewhere. By the way, who pays? And is there any rule about an engagement ring being 3 months worth of the man’s salary?

      • That’s exactly the idea. Man pays. It used to be 3mo but I’m not sure that’s still the case. And for wedding ring, I’m pretty sure tradition is for them to buy each other’s but I think these days they probably go in together.

        • Hey you! How are things going? I’ve been off the blogging thing for a month and happy to be back. Do you happen to know where the three months salary thing comes from in AU for engagement rings? From what I gather on this side of the pond, it was all a marketing ploy by… was it De Beers??

          • Hey! Welcome back! I’m in and out of blogging at the moment because I’m planning a move interstate (there’s a post about that somewhere). I actually have no idea where it comes from but yes I suspect marketing is to blame 😋

  10. Everyone wears matching sets here and it is a great insult to not wear the ring if you are married, man or woman. I think your choice of rings us refreshing and much cooler.

    • How interesting! I think my dad only wore his wedding ring on his wedding day. Otherwise, he found it hot and uncomfortable. I’ve noticed that often in the men of his generation. I find that so interesting about it being insulting to not wear your ring. I would say that if a wedding ring is removed when it shouldn’t be or not worn when it usually is, it’s sending a strong negative message in a Canadian context. Do you know much about the history of rings in Puerto Rico? Have they been used as a symbol of marriage for as far back as forever or were other symbols used at one point?

      • My dad never wears his wedding ring either! 🙂 It is generally expected that married people will wear their rings to let others know that they are no longer available. It is generally considered that someone who is married and does not wear their ring doesn’t care about cheating or hooking up outside of their marriage.
        A decent single woman usually flees when she finds out a man is married and not wearing his ring, say, in a bar because it’s understood that he’s out to cheat on his wife. This is all generally speaking, of course, nothing written in stone.
        My mother for example finds it extremely annoying that my father refuses to wear his ring, but has not divorced him yet 🙂

        As I understand before the island was invaded by Spain in 1493, our natives’ (taínos) wives identified themselves by wearing a skirt. Men did not wore any marriage symbol. Spaniards instituted Catholicism and with it marriage and from then on we followed it’s norms, including the ring exchange for married people.

        About the rings themselves; most people wear matching sets. I’d say about 80%. I only recall my uncle not wearing the match to his wife’s ring because he chose to carry my grandfather’s ring.

  11. This is beautiful! And I’m so sorry to hear about the ring maker’s death. That’s quite a shock!

    We went with matching bands because they were given to us – but I have several friends that have mismatched wedding rings here in Japan and they LOVE them!

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