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Silk, chiffon, and selfies: Tokyo photo studio offers free bridal dress-up 'dream world'

Women in wedding garb pose for a photo at "And Photo," a photography studio in Tokyo's Shibuya Ward, on March 18, 2018. (Mainichi)

TOKYO -- With each change of accessory, angle and expression, a smartphone shutter snaps and another carefully composed image of the white-clad photographer is added to the album, perhaps to be posted proudly on Instagram or some other social media account.

This is "And Photo," a photography studio in Tokyo's Shibuya Ward. And it is often busy these days with women choosing wedding dresses and accessories to wear, not for an actual wedding, but for a "bridal experience" centered on taking that perfect picture in silk and chiffon.

"It's like I've come to a dream world," said Natsuki Sasaki, a 23-year-old nurse who came to the studio with a friend. "I'm not getting married yet, but I want to try a traditional Japanese outfit as well." And she can, all for free.

"And Photo" opened in January this year, operated by Mation Inc., a company specializing in low-cost, easy-to-plan wedding ceremonies and receptions. The studio has professional photographers ready to do shoots for a fee, but snapping selfies or group shots with your own camera costs nothing.

"First of all, we'd like people who think holding a ceremony is daunting to come and have fun, and then maybe the visit will make them think about what they'll do in the future," said brand director Ayaka Fujii, 32, of the studio's concept. In other words, the company is hoping the free service will lead to future business for their paid products. Behind the move is the fact that nearly half of couples no longer hold wedding receptions.

According to a 2017 survey by Recruit Marketing Partners Co., publisher of wedding magazine "Zexy," on attitudes toward marriage, about 85 percent of respondents planned to hold some kind of ceremony when they got married. However, in recent years, more couples are opting to forgo big receptions in favor of small family meals and photo shoots, and just around 54 percent of respondents to the Recruit survey said they would hold both a wedding ceremony and a reception.

"In this era, when the idea that you 'have to do X' is fading, there is a tendency for people who have ceremonial occasions to want to re-examine their lifestyles through that event," observed Naoki Suzuki, the 49-year-old head of Recruit's bridal research group. "The wedding business is now offering many new kinds of services to meet customers' diversifying needs, like couples who hold 'registration ceremonies' when they file their marriage registrations at their municipal office."

(Japanese original by Kimi Takeuchi, Photo and Video Center)

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