When all is understood, the relatives and participants are brought to the photo studio where the professional photographs are to be taken. Taking the photographs of the bride, the groom, and their relatives is considered to be the central part of the wedding day. The photographs of the couple and their family are designed to represent the couple’s prospective future together
He mops the temple floor with an unfettered subservience so rarely seen outside Japan. God forbid the dishonor of not having everything perfect for this couple and their family. The entire courtyard area has been so carefully collated and packaged and, despite the recent rain shower, everything is going very much to plan. It’s Japan for Chrissakes, “everything going to plan” is her middle name.
Japanese wedding customs fall into two categories: traditional Shinto ceremonies, and modern Western-style weddings. In either case, the couple must first be legally married by filing for marriage at their local government office, and the official documentation must be produced in order for the ceremony to be held.
Maybe an hour and a half earlier and we stumble across our first wedding of the day. We’ve just arrived in Shibuya on a busy Sunday afternoon. The streets are thronged with shoppers of various types, buying everything from cheap backstreet crazy costumes to expensive high street crazy costumes.
There are two types of Japanese weddings, Wikipedia states. The traditional Shinto wedding and the western style wedding. “Style” being the operative word in that sentence as when we stumble across the happy couple exiting the highstreet chapel in Shibuya we discover a wedding which is very much unique and could defintitely only describable as in a western “style”.
The couple seem to have gotten married in a shopping mall because they emerge onto one of the main Shibuya shopping streets, him in a small smart suit and her in a flowing white dress. It’s like getting married in Oxford Street, London, and then walking out into traffic. It baffles me (but at the same time just as much as any and everything else about my 2 1/2 week trip to Japan)
The newly wife is being relentlessly fussed over by her subservient wedding co-ordinator, who gathers and fixes the dress while politely screaming orders at people and dealing with someone on the phone; the delicate absolute panic in her eyes, her back always hunched in a semi-bow, her ability to make herself conspicuous while always being in the way, makes me think of her as a hall of mirrors warped version of the J-Lo wedding planner.
The Japanese bride-to-be may be painted pure white from head to toe, visibly declaring her maiden status to the gods. Two choices of headgear exist. One, the watabōshi, is a white hood; the other, called the tsunokakushi, serves to hide the bride’s ‘horns of jealousy.’ It also symbolizes the bride’s intention to become a gentle and obedient wife.
Needless to say we didn’t come to Yogi Park looking for a wedding. We came to visit the temple, so it is a big surprise to us to catch our second wedding of the day two hours later. And this is most definitely a Shinto wedding as the bride and groom emerge, the temple priests leading the way; the groom dressed in traditional attire and her a Star Wars Padime inspired (or is it the other way around?) amazing white kimono, make up and head piece, all in pristine white.
The wedding procession emerges into a temple full of tourists who snap away on their cameras as if they can’t believe their luck. The procession seems oblivious to them, wandering ghostlike through the world. I can’t imagine getting married in a major tourist site like this but the Japanese seem to take it in their stride. There is also the feeling that it is OK in ceremonies like this to humbly flaunt your wealth and status to anyone watching.
The wedding throng contains a mix of traditional and more modern garb and a fantastic wide-eyed young girl with a little white satin purse looking as cute as ever. The wedding procession move off to the next stage of the ceremony as the tourist crowd exhales a collective gasp and mumble among themselves at how beautiful the bride looked. We return to our sightseeing, happy with the small slice of Japanese culture that we have been lucky enough to witness today.