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Traditional Japanese Weddings

Author: Svitlana Grytsenko, Issue: March 2004, Topic: Japanese Culture

There is a nice Russian book of old Japanese tales at Tsukuba library. The way it has been written is interesting and funny. Apparently, it is a word for word translation from the Japanese language and there are plenty of sentences which would not be used in the Russian language because they are much too polite and can be considered like sarcasm or for some other reasons. The ways of thinking, the expectations of other people's behavior in different situations, etc. may seem obvious to Japanese, but are surprising for non-Japanese. The example of different animals is shown in daily life and Japanese traditions. Here is a description of a traditional Japanese wedding, which I found interesting and not widely known. I found it in a footnote in the story "Wedding of a Rat", which was written by Sadzanami Sandzin and published in "Sagas of Ancient Japan". I thought Alien Times readers might be interested in it.


The traditional way to make a marriage contract in Japan is as follows: The common practice was for a matchmaker called "nakodo" to formally make the match. This person was thereafter considered a patron of the newly-married couple, and his help was also asked to settle any disagreements and in case it was necessary to designate the conditions of a divorce. After a rendezvous of the groom with the bride for a reciprocal familiarization, they exchanged gifts called "yuino"; from this moment they were considered as betrothed. After that a day was chosen for the wedding, avoiding any days considered to be unlucky. The bride was dressed in all white, as a sign of that she would only leave the household of her husband by death (white is the color of mourning). She set out for her husband's house accompanied by the nakodo and his wife, and as soon as they arrived there was a dinner which included drinking from special cups called "sansan kudo" (literally: 3x3=9). It consisted of the groom and the bride tasting rice wine 3 times from 3 different cups of different sizes. For the first drink, the bride drinks like a guest. At the same time a "shimadai" is placed close to them on a small table. It is an emblem of happiness, welfare and faithfulness, and consists of the branches of a pine tree, a bamboo and a plum-tree, and has figures of a crane, a turtle and also of an old man and an old woman with the brooms in their hands. The old man and the old woman represent the spirits of the pine trees in Takasago and Sumiyoshi, which symbolized their growing old together, and thus was a wish for a long and harmonious life as a married couple. A special song is sung for every correctly performed wedding.

After this, the bride takes off her white dress and dresses in another one, a present of the groom. After drinking from the unifying cup, she changes one more time to a colored dress, the one she brought from her home. The fiance also changes his clothes. On completion of the feast, the nakodo and his wife lead newly-weds to a wedding room. Here they again drink 9 times each from the cup, but the groom drinks first, since he has become the head of the house. This is the end of the wedding ceremony. After that they are considered to be husband and wife.

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