Sunday, May 8, 2011

A Tokyo Wedding... Pt 2 The Ceremony & Welcoming

The Hotel New Otani has it's own private shrine down on the ground level (near the gardens) and that's where the wedding party was lead - where the Shinto ceremony is generally for family and very close friends... We didn't realise it before hand, but we were going to have front-row seats, on either side of the bride and groom. Now - the one thing I have to say is that for respect, we were asked not to take photos during the main ceremony.

The ceremony involves a lot of recitaton by the priest to purify the couple... and of course to bless the marriage. Actually, there's a fair bit of formalism to the ceremony, most of which was unknown to us (we had an attendant explain the steps involved before hand - even H-kun needed some last minute reminders). This is not a time for grand theatre, but is meant to be a solemn time. The bride and groom don't exchange vowels as such - nor was there an exchange of rings (this may be different elsewhere... not sure how things vary by location, or by couple). Indeed the sakaki branch (on the front bench) is used to join the two together at this stage in sacred offering. Actually - the official marriage is done before hand through the equivalent of the Council Offices, but that doesn't distract from the importance of this day of public joining together.
The Shinto Shrine

The ceremony ends with the san-san-kudo ceremony, which might be translated to 3x3=9. Other than the educative value in reminding us of our multiplication tables, you might be wondering what that might have to do with a wedding. In this the bride and groom take turns to sip from three cups of sake, three times each (nine times in all); three is an auspicious number... therefore three times has to be a truly lucky combination - san-san-kudo. This process is known more generally as "sakazuki-goto", where sakzuki characteristic very wide, shallow sake cups - and often is used in Japan at the completion of a contract or something important. It doesn't get much more important than marriage. The sake is said to be instilling the spirit of the god in the marriage... actually alcohol pretty well features throughout the day and evening (much like weddings in many cultures, strangely enough). so there must be a lot of the gods to go around.

In historical Japan, it was the groom that would be adopted as part of the bride's family upon marriage (this was known as "mukoiri-kon", and was useful in moving labour - for hard field work - between families. With the development of a strong military caste system, this was turned around such that brides in turn left their family to become formally part of the grooms family (or "yomeiri-kon")... now women were seen as the labour capital in the agrarian society. This tradition (of brides formally transitioning their family) has continued on to modern times, though it has been softened in meaning. On a personal note, after T-chan and I married, she had to go to her local council office to effectively be removed from her families register. It's a harsh reminder of older times, and also a sobering moment for a daughter.
The Newly Married Bride Gets Ready

Back up stairs after the main group photos had been taken, we enjoyed the official welcoming party. The day is actually party after party, each party having a slightly different feel (and guest list). Hard work for the newly married couple, both in the preparation and implementation. I guess, coming from Australia we'd missed most of the hard lead-up work... and could just come in and enjoy things. By this stage, all of our concerns before the trip had completely melted away in happiness.
Daddy and son

One of the fun things is to read the couples welcoming profile... even L-kun took a serious look at it. I suspect he was just trying to find his favourite uncle H-kun in all of the photos. The couple also had a lot of faux-newspapers printed up with news stories about themselves and greetings from guests. I love the idea of a couple profile - it's a great way for everyone to get to know the couple from a different perspective than they might be used to.

The brides father took a moment to reflect on the change of life (or just to get a look at the weather). The second daughter to be married in the space of a year. Outside the fickle spring weather had turned wet and windy. Inside there was warmth and love enough to keep the poor weather at bay, and smiles on the faces of all the guests.
The Bride's father
The welcoming is not really a welcoming by the couple... Actually, the couple were notable in their absence at this point (and for good reason)... An important part of this stage is to make sure everyone is being looked after, and also to receive gifts from guests. It is still commonplace in Japan for the couple to receive money as a wedding gift (and in turn they will receive a thank you gift from the couple, as custom requires).

The couple meanwhile were getting ready for the next stage. The reception party proper...


  1. Japanese women look so beautiful in their traditional wedding outfit.

  2. Of course all brides are beautiful... (strange how few times the men are complemented). I'm sure S-chan will be very happy to hear your comment.