Japan Pt 3 The Wedding Party

On April 9th, the day after the wedding at the Shinto Shrine in Kyoto, we boarded the express commuter train to Osaka. Joe and Nancy had already taken lots of things to the hotel in Osaka (by train of course). We had 5 people 4 suitcases, lots of shoulder bags and handle bags and one very large flower arrangement on the commuter – which luckily was not during rush hour. The wedding party (what we would call the reception) was held at a hotel in Osaka that night for extended family and friends. At 5:45 we went to the banquet room and found it almost full of guests. Joe and Maki told us that almost everyone they invited (who lived in Japan) had accepted the invitation and that several people had asked them for an invitation. This indicates the good friends that they have made and a wonderful support network.


An invitation to a Japanese wedding reception includes the price the guests will pay for attending (to cover the cost of the party). But the guests are not expected bring presents (though some choose to do so). Unlike American weddings the couple does not expect to receive gifts and indeed it is the custom for the couple to give gifts to family members and friends.

Nancy and Leonor had found a western style wedding dress in Rochester for Maki. (Her traditional garb for the wedding ceremony had been rented.) So our Japanese daughter-in-law wore a white western-style wedding gown and our American-born son wore the traditional Japanese garb. Somehow that is a microcosm which speaks of the openness and respect each has for the other and their culture.

Arriving for the party guests were asked to write down their cell-phone number. This was put in a box for a drawing later in the evening. Soon after Joe and Maki made their formal entrance a photo show began that Joe had created with photos he had taken of day-trips, and places he and Maki had visited. Joe has always preferred to take pictures of scenery rather than people – until he met Maki. The pictures were projected throughout the evening on two photo walls.

Several people had been asked by Joe and Maki to give “speeches” – reflections really. The first was a toast given by the principal (Sensei) of Sagano high school where Joe has worked for 5 years. In this toast Sensei spoke of Joe’s love and respect for Japanese culture and his ability to reach out to people. Joe had asked his brother Chris to give a short speech. Chris worked with one the JETs (Japanese Exchange Teachers)  to translate his words into Japanese which was not an easy feat we learned due to the informality of English and the way in which we tell stories. And there are  more formal social structures built into Japanese language that are hard to translate. Chris spoke of Joe’s adventuring spirit and of Maki reflecting the same spirit.

Two friends played an oboe and bass on several musical pieces. Two of Maki’s friends preformed several Latin American dances. Towards the end of the evening Nancy was asked to play the piano. She chose Clair de Lune and The Entertainer Rag. Dinner was a buffet with pasta dishes, with Japanese dishes, and even tacos  a real international experience.

During dessert the box with phone numbers was brought out and Joe & Maki called the numbers drawn. Answering the phone the person was invited come forward to draw a number out of the bowl; which corresponded to a “door prize” like gift.  There were confections, small gifts and larger ones including even a bread machine. This later prize was won by the assistant principal who was ecstatic with it. The next “care package” we send to Joe will have a bread mix for the assistant principal.

Throughout the evening Nancy, Chris and I were sought out for conversation with friends and co-workers. We were amazed at the depth of friendliness and graciousness of these people and of their love and caring for Maki & Joe.

At one point in the evening word had spread that Nancy had created Joe’s clothing – and Joe was proudly showing off the garments and especially the silk painting of Delicate Arch in the lining of the jacket.

There was one constant between this part and American receptions. The couple was so busy greeting people during the party and having pictures taken that after the party they went out to get some dinner.

It was a wonderful experience to see these two people whom we love and who love one another, surrounded and supported by this large group of people who obviously care for them and wish them well as they begin their life together as a married couple.


About don

The Rev Don Hill is an Episcopal priest, rail fan and writer. He and his wife the Rev. Dr. Nancy Woodworth-Hill are currently Co-Pastors of St Paul's Episcopal Church, Jeffersonville IN, in the Diocese of Indianapolis. They also work as parish consultants in Appreciative Inquiry, strategic planning and spirituality development for parishes and vestries.
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