TOKYO - Japan's local governments are planning something special for those who register their marriage on the first day of the new era, including offering gifts and commemorative photos, as they expect a spike in the number of couples tying the knot on May 1.
The start of the new era Reiwa upon the enthronement of Crown Prince Naruhito will fall on an auspicious day for marriage according to a traditional Japanese calendar, likely prompting many couples to file their marriage papers that day.
Some local governments plan to set up temporary counters for marriage registrations, instead of accepting the documents at the security guards' room -- a usual practice on a public holiday.
Japan has designated May 1 this year as a one-off holiday to celebrate the imperial succession, as part of a 10-day Golden Week vacation period.
Others plan to celebrate the "new-era marriages" by taking photos of couples and offering them presents.
The city of Kaga in the central Japan prefecture of Ishikawa will open marriage registration counters from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on May 1.
Staff will take commemorative photos of couples standing in front of a cardboard background illustrated with hearts while their registration is processed. The photos will then be framed and presented to the newlyweds.
"We want to celebrate marriages on the first day of the new era, which will be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," an official for the project said.
The city of Okayama in western Japan will mark the day by setting up a counter accepting marriage registrations at Okayama Castle's Akazu gate.
From May 1, the city government will use special marriage papers with illustrations of the castle and Momotaro (Peach Boy), a popular hero of Japanese folklore originating from Okayama Prefecture and said to have been born from a giant peach.
Those registering their marriage will also receive pairs of celebratory local pottery cups with the date engraved on them.
On average, the city of Okayama receives 20 marriage registration requests a day, but it expects the number will jump to 100 on May 1. "We hope (couples) will memorialize their (personal) event at the historical (castle)," a city official said.
In Toyohashi city in the central Japan prefecture of Aichi, five or six workers will be ready to offer potted geraniums and colored paper as gifts to the first 100 couples registering their marriage.
In Komae, a Tokyo suburb, Mayor Toshio Matsubara will be on hand to congratulate couples as they get married, a practice deviating from the usual bureaucratic process. "He has a strong desire to celebrate that day," explained a city official.
The Komae city office expects to receive around 30 to 40 registration requests for marriage on May 1, as high as Nov. 11, 2011, when many couples appreciated the date containing six ones.