Mari and Kazu

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by Harumi Okochi.
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August 2007

A Japanese Shinto Wedding

Hi, friends.
Our friends, David and Ann Maclennan, living in Tasmania, visited us some months ago again. After our place they went to Atsugi to participate in someone's wedding. I asked David to write about the wedding for my web-readers.
Please enjoy!

A Shinto Wedding
David Maclennan

Back to Japan for our sixth visit. This time we had been invited to the wedding of the eldest son of Hiroko and Takashi Tagami, friends of ours who live in Atsugi. This wedding was the culmination of a most wonderful month touring Japan. As usual, we criss-crossed Japan from east to west and north to south visiting old friends and going to new places. But I digress. Harumi has asked us to give our thoughts on a traditional Japanese wedding.
Tsuyoshi, Mina, Ayako, Nariko Yamamoto

We arrived at our hotel in Tokyo just after four o’clock on the Friday evening and, as we were checking in, Hiroko was there to greet us. We went up to our room to relax for a little while. It appeared that Hiroko and Takashi were taking us out to dinner to meet the family of Mari Yamamoto, the bride. We had a wonderful evening and although they had no English and us with little or no Japanese, we were able to communicate. They live in the middle of Shikoku and we were the first foreigners that the bride’s grandmother had ever met. We now have another place to visit on our next trip to Japan.

The next day, after breakfast, we got changed and finished packing before leaving our bags at the hotel for collection later in the day. We set off by taxi with Tsuyoshi Yamamoto (the bride’s father) and Takashi to Happoen, the place where the reception was being held. This reception centre was catering for 39 weddings on that Saturday. There are chapels and shrines within the centre but Kazu (the groom), who loves Japanese tradition and culture, wanted the ceremony to take place in an authentic Shinto shrine. At the reception centre the ladies got dressed in their Kimono and the gentlemen into their white tie and tails. The bride and groom, however, were in traditional Japanese dress. When the
The Assistant priest
families were ready, we boarded a bus to take us to the Hikawa shrine in the middle of Tokyo. Unfortunately, the bus driver got lost and what should have taken twenty minutes took just over an hour. This meant that there was no rehearsal time prior to the ceremony. Consequently, the junior priest had to tell everyone what he or she had to do and when to do it. To us, it did not matter as we thought it was all part of the wedding ceremony.

Arriving at the Shrine
The ceremony started with the bride and groom being escorted into the shrine by a group of musicians, two priestesses and the priests. The families sat at the rear of the shrine where they were able to view the ceremony. During the course of the ceremony the priestesses offered the bride and groom some sake, which was then passed around the members of the family. The bride and groom, at one point, moved up to the altar where the chief priest conducted the marriage vows. Towards the end of the ceremony, the fathers of the bride and groom each
Fathers presenting Sakaki branches at the altar
carried forward to the altar a branch of Sakaki tree. These branches were then laid upon the altar. It was not long after this happened that the ceremony concluded and we moved out into the grounds of the shrine to have some wedding photographs taken.

Once this had been done, it was back on to the bus and off to the reception Centre at Happoen. Here more photographs were taken out in the grounds and as you can imagine, with 39 weddings going on it was run with military clockwork. The reception itself was a little different from that held after a Western wedding. The major difference was that the bride and groom sat at the head table by themselves and that their
Lighting the candles on each table
families were seated at the back of the room. As usual, there were lots of speeches and instead of a wedding cake; the bride and groom together with their mothers and fathers broke open a barrel of sake.

As well as some musical entertainment, there were a couple of slide shows that depicted the lives of the bride and groom. Much to our surprise we were suddenly looking at a photograph of ourselves taken when Kazu came to visit us a number of years ago. What the wonderful surprise this was to think that he had thought so much of his visit to us to include it in his life’s presentation. The bride and groom then came round to light the candles on each table. At the conclusion of the reception, we presented them with a clock mounted
Ann presenting the gift from Tasmania
in a piece of Tasmanian Huon Pine timber.

Thank you very much Kazu and Mari for allowing us to be part of your very special day and thank you Harumi for allowing us to write about it.

More photos

David, wearing his kilt, Kazu, Mari, Ann
Thank you , David-san and Ann-san.
We also wish Mari and Kazu happiness and prosperity.
I hope you will come next year again, and write about your special experiences in Japan because you are seeing deep Japan, not as a mere sight-seeing guests, but as friends.

Dear Readers, thank YOU very much for visiting this page.
I wish you a wonderful summer!

David has written twice about his trips in Japan.

Thank you very much for visiting this page.
I hope you will return next month.
Yours, Harumi Okochi

Proprietress of

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