My cousin's cousin's wife's aunt's sister's cousin (ok, I kid, but our relation is just about this complicated) got married last Sunday at Meiji Jingu, the largest Shinto shrine in Tokyo, to a Swiss banker.
What an affair! Half the wedding party were Swiss, speaking mostly French and bieng quite flamboyant, the other half Japanese, speaking NO French and being quite reserved/Japanese. The couple, pictured above, in traditional wedding kimono and hakama.
The Shinto wedding ceremony. Though I understood hardly any of it, I was impressed by the feeling and the structure of the ceremony itself. It all felt so deliberate and fully of thought and great intention. I couldn't help but feel that the seriousness of the ceremony conveyed that this marriage was being taken in equal seriousness, and it made me wonder if the casual way that we conduct weddings usually is part of the reason why marriage itself is often taken so casually.
My cousin Aki.
Cousins Aki and Yuko in all their kimono splendor. I am still mystified by kimono - I have absolutely no ability to tell the difference between a high price kimono and a knock off poleyster deal (I don't know if they actually make kimono in poleyster, but I'm sure someone thought of this in 1963). Often the most expensive ones look the cheapest to me and vice versa. What I do know is that the one's my cousin's wore cost as much to rent per day as a ten year-old used Volvo. Am I too practical? I would rather have the Volvo.
We arrived at the shrine and all the kimono cousins were the darlings of the tourists visiting the shrine.
We all met in a reception room of the shrine and each side of the family introduced themselves.
Then we marched across the front of the shrine to another private room where the priests would conduct the marriage ceremony. The line on the right: us. The line on the right: tourists gathering round to snap celebrity pics.
We were served sakura cha, which is a tea made out of dried and salted cherry blossoms. It looks pretty, but it tasted like... salt. No way man.
We moved from the shrine to the Hotel New Otani, to a fancy recetion room complete with automatic curtains that would be drawn or let down dramatically to showcase the gardens through the windows or the entrance of the bride each time she had an outfit change.
This was my favorite dish served at the reception: personal igloos with sashimi inside!
The family hired Japanese interpretors for many of the French speaking guests and at one point a man who looked like he only ever wore clothes suitable for yachting (silk scarf tucked into the shirt and fancy boating shoes... oh, how I love boating shoes!) stood up and gave a long speech. Throughout the speech he waved his hands the air, made kissing gestures, cried a little and spoke as effusively as a French-speaking yachting sport knows how. Oh, haha and the poor Japanese translator had no idea what to do with him. He would say something emotionally gripping and swivel around wildly and she would time after time translate into the most polite, kurt Japanese. Even for those who couldn't understand Japanese it was a hilarious scene. Everyone could see the comedy of this, and like a scene from Lost in Translation, the more he said, the less she said. I don't think the Japanese guests quite got the joke though...
Weddings in Japan seem to often be a Japanese interpretation of what a Western style wedding is. This wedding carefully stuck to traditional Japanese wedding style and so instead of four different dresses, my cousin changed into four different kimono. All of the food was Japanese and each dish had symbolism relating to the union of the new couple, prosperity, future happines, blah blah.
Me and the women in the fam.
Aside from the wedding, there was Tokyo. I am not sure if I like Tokyo yet. I always get those excited shivers of "I am in a big city!" when I first arrive, but I don't think Tokyo is a very beautiful or magnetic city in the way I want a big city to be. Or at least I haven't learned how to understand it for itself as opposed to how I usually understand other big cities, because I think Tokyo must call for some other kind of understanding.
The cherry blossoms were just starting to do their thing and everyone was out to check it out.
I went shopping like crazy woah! Ah, for the love of international stores! In Harajuku.
Sat in front of a crepe restuarant and ate a goat cheese gallette and a pear and pear liquer crepe a flambe. The man who own the restaurant basically makes it his job to act as flamboyantly French as possible when welcoming patrons and I watched group after group of Japanese people enter the restaurant squeeling with delight at this man yelling at them in wild French. I tried to pretend I was sitting in Passy at a cafe and I had a coffee so strong (no one makes good coffee in Kagoshima) that I thought I was going to have a panic attack.