Friday, September 16, 2011
Last weekend, I attended a Japanese wedding in Tokyo. The bride graduated from my college a couple of years before me. When I lived in Tokyo back in '09, she helped me out if I had problems and was generally amiable. Back in early '11, I was invited to her wedding. Since then, I'd been making plans.
I caught a shinkansen (bullet train) to Tokyo on Friday and met up with some of the other wedding guests, mutual Japanese acquaintances. The wedding was held in Disneyland, of all places. Specifically, the Disneyland counterpart known as Disneysea, known as such because of the massive lake at its center.
The ceremony itself was beautiful, held in a circular chapel with large, elegant windows. The priest spoke in both English and Japanese, for the benefit of the few foreigners in attendance. Afterward, the bride and groom held a large reception for their guests, featuring some inspiring speeches (I didn't understand them) and a meal with almost a dozen courses. To top it all off, Mickey Mouse and the whole gang came to the reception wishing the new couple well. After posing for well over one million photos (I may be exaggerating), they performed some wonderful song and dance routines.
The bride's dress was a lovely strapless affair, with a train so long that she had a special attendant who moved it every time the bride wanted to turn right or left. The groom had some sort of tuxedo that I'd never seen before. All I can say is that it had more frills than anything else I've ever seen in my life. Later, he set the tables on fire, but that's a story for another day.
When it comes to a Japanese-Style Wedding between an American woman and a Japanese man, the rules of home-court advantage seem to apply. In this case, we adhered to many of the Japanese traditions and customs. Although, having never been married (that I know of) I can't always differentiate between what's inherently Western and what's not.
One thing in particular that surprised me is that in Japan it is customary to give money instead of gifts. Whereas in Oregon a couple might register at Target or Home Depot and expect guests to shop for them, in Japan everyone gives a go-shuugi (celebratory gift, ご祝儀) of cash to the bride and groom. For regular guests, it is 30,000¥ (around $350 dollars), but for relatives and parents it is even more. It can often be said that you are paying your way into a wedding in America with things like microwaves and dish sets, but in this case I was actually paying to attend a wedding with cold, hard cash. I actually prefer this practice to Western ones. When you're a newlywed couple starting a life together, I would expect that funding is more important that appliances.
My friend is an English teacher at an elementary school in Japan. During the ceremony, we watched videos made by her students. Of course, there were a few wet eyes in the audience. At the end of the reception, the bride and groom presented their respective families with gifts for having assisted in the planning and production of the entire affair. A lovely gesture, to be sure.
After everything was said and done, we had a second party for the young'ins! In Japan we call this nijikai (二次会), which means "second party on the same night." All of the people who were unable to attend the main ceremony due to space concerns or other business came out to harangue the couple in the most polite ways possible. I was please to come away with a 3-in-1 Breakfast Machine after winning the Bingo tournament, although that meant I had to carry a gigantic box everywhere I went for the rest of my vacation.
My trip to Tokyo was a lot of fun, but this was by far the best part of it, as well as the only reason I even considered spending $200 on a train ticket. To my friend, I wish all the best in the future. Finding that one special person is a delicate process, and earning/reciprocating that mutual affection is like walking a tightrope. It's always exciting, though. I'm glad you've found your balance.