Weddings became a surprising diversion from yoga with the emergence of a number of interrelated events. First, the discovery of Meguro Gajoen, a popular and spectacularly decorated wedding hall; next, the chance encounter of a couple of wedding photo shoots; and the timely marriages of Yuri Nakamura and other Yoga Plus teachers and students. Weddings around the world are typically joyous and festive celebrations highlighting customs unique to a culture. In some cases it may be mandatory that a ceremony embrace many aspects of the past. However, for weddings in Japan, a youthful desire for modern, stylistic touches are in contrast with a splendid heritage associated with marriages. The solution? From what I see, a delightful compromise that presents an extravagant pageant of colorful finery and dazzling rituals.
On my way home from Hanami viewing at Shinjuku Goyen, I walked over towards a group of women peering into a storefront with “Innocently” printed across the glass window. I stood amongst them and saw a young couple inside being photographed for their wedding. The bride and groom wore stunning clothes. We all gasped as an attendant removed the bride’s towering satin white headdress to reveal an elaborate, ornamental hairstyle….
Curious about what I’d seen, I later mentioned this incident to Sari (Sahoko Matsuo) who shared insight on the details and customs of traditional Japanese wedding attire. She conveniently had pictures of her sister’s recent wedding on her I-phone. Sari told me about her sister’s rigorous lessons in the months prior to the event, learning how to walk, move and pose in the very heavy gown and headdress, while teetering on zori. Furthermore, all of the women attending the wedding, especially relatives, wore kimonos made especially for the occasion, some being handed down through generations. The ceremony is usually held in a Shinto Shrine (Buddhist).
After additional research and discussion with Sari, I found out that the wedding attire and ceremony are laden with symbolic details:
- The traditional Japanese wedding dress for women is a simply designed white kimono shiro-maku (“shiro”- white, “maku” – pure).
- The headpiece is a tsuno kakushi, which covers the elaborate hairstyle, bunkin takashimada, signifying obedience to the husband.
- The golden accessories, kanzashi, that adorn the hair symbolize horns of jealousy.
- The bride’s face is dusted in white powder, indicating purity. Black outlined eyes and red lips complete the dramatic look.
- She will also wear traditional Japanese footwear (tabi and zori) and array of other fine accessories.
- For the reception the bride will change into an Uchikake a lucky, red silk kimono embroidered with flowers, cranes or natural scenes.
- Nevertheless, a Japanese bride may change at least five times throughout the entire ceremony finally ending up in a Western style dress if she pleases.
The groom also wears a formal black kimono montsuki, with a family crest on the back, tucked into gray or white pinstriped Hakama pants. The ensemble is covered with a haori coat that may be black over gray.
Yuri Nakamura who recently got married in July, cheerfully kept me apprised on the developments of her wedding throughout our training. I enjoyed hearing stories about outings with her mother in search for the right dress to fit her small frame. By coincidence her wedding would also be held at Meguro Gajoen. I mentioned how I discovered this amazing place. She was so excited and said that almost everyone in Tokyo had a wedding there. These photos from Yuri’s wedding show a harmonious weaving of traditions and style. Note the kimonos worn by her and the groom, the lucky accents of red, later contrasted by his shiny suit and her western style gown covered in a cascade of roses.
This is just an overview on the subject and there is so much more information to reveal, but hopefully one can get a glimpse of the complexity and significance of wedding ceremonies in Japan. I’ve included a few, wonderful photos below of the recent nuptials of Yoga Plus teachers and students.