Friday, 29 October 2010

wedding song - Japanese View of Marriage (Translation of the Post on 26th Oct)

Let's take a look at the history of marriage in Japan today to gain a better understanding of the song.

About 1,000 years ago, during the age of the Heian Period, it was common for an aristocratic couple to live separately and for the husband to visit his wife only at night.  Back then, Japanese aristocratic society was polygamous, and a man might visit several different wives.
There are many novels in Japanese Heian Literature, for instance, Tale of Genji, which deals with love romance, in which several women fighting to win an aristocrat's love.
In the tale of Abe no Seimei, Onnyou-do magic is used to break a spell and solve out the problem caused by jealousy.

When the clans with the greatest military strength flourished in the 13th century (Kamakura Period), it became typical for a bride to move in with the groom's family.
A lady was expected to take care of domestic matters and to guarantee the prosperity of the clan by bearing strong sons.

The marriage style did not change much during the Edo period, but emphasis was placed on the relationship between two families, as opposed to two individuals.  This resulted in more marriages that ignored the feelings of the couple themselves.
The situation was slightly different between classes (tradesmen, artisans, Samurai, and merchants in Edo and Osaka), but the family relationship was thought to be the most important in any class.

Huge changes came to the style of marriage in Japan following the Second World War.
In 1946, the new constitution was promulgated, and a great emphasis on "freedom" was proclaimed in every aspect.
The marriage was thought to be freely entered into by a man and a woman, and the style of marriage shifted to the one based on their own free will.
Today, most Japanese get married of their own free will, regardless of their parents's opinion.

Along with a transformation of the institution of marriage, the style of a wedding ceremony has also changed to a great extent.

Before the Second World War, a Shinto wedding was the main-stream of wedding ceremonies.  It is held at a shrine, and the couple take matrimonial vows before a deity of Japan's ancient religion.
A ritual involving sake (Japanese rice wine) is quite outstanding in this type of wedding.
The bride and groom sip sacred sake - three sips from each of three cups, making nine sips in all.  This repetition of the lucky number three expresses gratitude to ancestors and a wish for many descendants.

A special Shinto prayer for wedding is chanted by a Shinto priest, and bride and groom in Japanese formal kimono dress sit quietly in a solemn, impressive atmosphere inside the shrine.

The bride is usually dressed head-to-toe in white, and this costume is called "Shiro Muku" (literally means "white purity").  White is a sacred colour representing absolute purity in a Shinto teachings.  It symbolizes her immaculate heart, which, from now on, will take on the 'colour' of the family she is marrying into.

During the wedding party, a bride changes her dress into the one with some colour on, showing the attendance that she has already dyed into the groom's family colour.

In spite of the fact that the population of Christians in Japan is only 1%, more than 60% of 700,000 couples get married in a Christian-style. One of the reasons is that many Japanese ladies dream of wearing a Western-style wedding dress, but it is mainly because Japanese think about a mixture of religions flexibly as seen in a syncretistic fusion of Shintoism and Buddhism.

Besides, a wedding ceremony in Christian-style puts more emphasis on the couple as two individuals rather than the family, so it is preferred by young couples enphasising marriage on their own free will.
It is true that there are quite a few westerners who frown at the fact that bride and groom sing a hymn for the first time in their life...

Two families gather and take a souvenir photo together before the wedding.
Bride's family stand in a row behind the bride, and groom's family stand behind the groom.
It is typical of Japanese wedding scenery, and this custom reflects the Japanese view that marriage connects two families.
Please take a look at this post for the Japanese worldview of taking souvenir photos.
It must be a reflection of our wish to preserve this moment in a visible way, I believe.

Is it clear now why Mr. Shimura' s words sound so Japanese?
Can you also feel that his words imply marriage is a family connection?
The institution of marriage is slowly and surely changing to match the times, but the family bond still remains and influences marriage in Japan.

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