Wednesday, May 4, 2011

A Tokyo Wedding... Pt 1 The Preparation

Well - today I start to write the story of my brother-in-law's (H-kun) wedding which was the inspiration for our recent trip to Tokyo... well, H-kun and his wonderful bride (S-chan)... we sort of met them back in an earlier post, but we get to meet them for real now. And it's a happy story indeed...

The wedding was at the Hotel New Otani (in Chiyoda, Tokyo), one of the very nice hotels within Tokyo (though a long way from the usual touristy areas). It's a very sought after location for weddings, especially in Spring, in the middle of Cherry Blossom season. Now it was essentially a formal Japanese wedding, with both traditional Japanese and modern (relaxed) Western style components. As both T-chan and her mother would be wearing kimono, they had elected to stay at the hotel the night before (and I'm sure they enjoyed some good mother-daughter time together)... 

Meanwhile L-kun, Otousan and myself met up with the groom and bride on the morning - who drove us to the hotel. It was a little strange (I have to admit) and a long way from the Western tradition of the groom not seeing the bride in the morning.

Everything went well... with one minor exception. Before I explain - to provide context, L-kun had been chosen as the ring-bearer for the ceremony. Which meant that he'd be centre of attention for at least part of the ceremony. That meant that he had leverage - and he knew how to use it. It started off by him refusing to wear his suit jacket, bow-tie or shoes. Not a good start. In fact, he looked downright miserable... with lots of yada yada yada! (reads not on your life...).

What's that they say about performing with animals or small children?... Anyhow, you learn a lot of patience as a parent in these situations (and just a little bit of faith that a miracle will occur). L-kun's a good boy, and whilst he can be a handful at times, he knows the right thing to do. He is, however, capable of being very stuborn...

Then we made our way downstairs... to start the festivities off.

So here's the happy groom (H-kun)... all smiles in the morning... clearly he hasn't had to worry about a temperamental child all morning. Actually, I can't remember feeling quite so relaxed when I got married. Here H-kun is wearing a traditional wedding attire... formal montsuki kimono, hakama (outer pants) and haori (overcoat or jacket). The haori is tied together by a large white haori-himo tassle, and of course no self-respecting Japanese groom would be without his fan... in case it get's too much.
A happy groom... still single and carefree.

Of course, there's a lot to remember come wedding time.... and these moments were important for H-kun to collect himself. After all, there was the Shinto ceremony to prepare for... and he was getting instruction from the attendant on all the ins and outs. It was then that I realised that none of us really knew what was going on. We were, of course, only supporting cast in today's show...
H-kun contemplates the future... soon to be not single...

It was also a time for H-kun/T-chan's parents to take stock. Finally their last child was to be married off. Of course, H-kun being the oldest (and especially being the male), this was quite a different story from when T-chan married myself. Eldest males still hold an important role (and place in a parents heart) in Japan. H-kun's wedding was particularly significant as his family had wondered if he was ever going to get married... much to his mother's concern.
Parents contemplate finally marrying son off.... relief

T-chan and Okaasan wore formal kimono, whereas the males (myself, L-kun and Otousan) wore Western style suits. Otousan scrubbed up quite well.... with a quick sip of some seasonal Sakura flavoured tea, we were all nicely calm and collected. Whew - it was going to be a long day.
T-chan takes a moment to consider the cherry blossom tea...

S-chan was looking remarkably calm as well. Once again, I couldn't quite get used to the fact that we were all interacting so closely (though the bride and grooms family's were separated in different rooms). Japanese brides wear a beautiful white (for purity) shiromuku kimono. The hair is made up (sorry to disappoint, but these hair settings are actually very expensive wigs) in a formal bunkin-takashimada style, over which is worn the tsunokakushi...and is historically/culturally meant to symbolize the hiding of her tsuno (horns) of jealousy... yes that's right, all Japanese women have horns (it's true, I'm speaking from experience). 
S-chan also contemplates the future... at long last!
Sometimes you will see brides wearing a larger white hood (known as the wataboshi) that covers most of the head - and which comes from an even older tradition. The hair-setting also comes with a number of golden combs or kanzashi and not forgetting the white figurative tsuno themselves. Actually, we got married over here in Australia, and as we weren't able to have a traditional Japanese wedding here, T-chan has always missed not having the chance to wear the full formal wedding attire.

T-chan and I had to spend quite a bit of time getting L-kun into the right mood, but after a little gentle encouragement, he started to relax and got into the swing of things. T-chan's kimono was a much younger style, but still difficult to wear (for most Japanese women, wearing a kimono is a bit of a rarity these days, especially for Japanese women living abroad). They are definitely not designed with comfort in mind, though it's not apparent to look at. Breathing is, apparently, a bonus.
T-chan and L-kun have a heart-to-heart

Before you knew it, the families were gathered, and we all headed off to the ceremonial Shinto shrine within the hotel. The wedding ceremony itself was about to begin.
The show is about to start...

I had hoped to take a lot of photos as a bit of a gift for H-kun and S-chan... but alas, it was an experience when I learned the difference between a not-so-good hobbyist, and a professional photographer. So, there weren't many good photos... due to the camera, the lighting, the distance, the wine (which had an increasing effect as the day wore on) - but not least of all the skill level. What follows is a few of the half decent photos (ok, many of these weren't even half decent)... taken both as a happy guest, and a very happy brother-in-law.

It was indeed a very special day.... so I hope you indulge me, as I tell the story of H-kun and S-chan's wedding.


  1. Thanks for the comment. Yes, it was a very happy day for everyone. Especially considering it was so soon after the tohoku earthquake. Cheers!