Saturday, September 2, 2017

The Wedding Ceremony in 1893, Japan

A Japanese Wedding Ceremony, 1893.

       One morning, in a certain city in the State of New York, a dignified old clergyman appeared in my room and invited me to attend the Japanese wedding which would take place in his church that evening. I was delighted to receive such an invitation. I thought it quite a treat to attend a Japanese wedding in this Yankee land, so far from my native soil.
       But the facts proved that it was not a true Japanese wedding. His church was behind in his salary, and were trying to raise the deficit by giving a concert where a Japanese wedding should be the attraction. So I was invited, not only to attend, but to give a lecture on Japan also. 
       He asked me earnestly to come, and promised to take me up and down in good order in his carriage, and to give me a warm bed and a warm breakfast. I accepted it cordially, not only for a warm bed and a warm breakfast, but for my curiosity to see a Japanese wedding in America.
       When we arrived at the church it was packed full of people waiting for the performance. Surety, these people take a great interest in Japan. But it took a long time for the actual appearance. Evidently it was a big job to prepare such a wedding ceremony; but after waiting patiently about half an hour the ceremony began with music. Then bride and bridegroom, with her five maids and his five best men, advanced slowly from either end of the stage, and all bowed to the floor, and then sat down in the middle of the platform.
       The bride had a long white veil and loose garment, and her face was painted with white powder. The bridegroom had a pigtail on his head, and a loose garment, and shoes on his feet. The bridesmaids had a peculiar hair dress and funny garments, as had also the best men.
       The first thing that the bride and groom did was to kiss each other, and then he presented her with a gold watch as a wedding-gift. Then the bride and groom drank something with each other at the
same time, from a queer pot which had a mouth on each side.
       During this performance her maids and his men were sitting down on the floor, drinking tea and eating pop-corn.
       This is all I saw of this Japanese wedding. Was it a Japanese wedding? I suppose this is a new invention of a Japanese wedding ceremony for America, or a new importation from Japan to fit American people. I think it more proper to call it a -- cosmopolitan -- wedding, for different national characteristics are represented in it.
       The Japanese never kiss on any occasion before the public to show their affection. A Japanese bride will not wear a long, thin, white veil, and Japanese never have a pigtail on their heads. A pigtail denotes a Chinese, no question. Kissing is an American custom. I don't know to what nation belongs the custom of eating popcorn in a wedding ceremony. Possibly it is an Indian custom. Allow me to describe the true Japanese wedding ceremony in this article.
       Though there are slight differences in the manner of conducting the wedding ceremony in different parts of the Empire, the main part is the same everywhere in Japan. The ceremony never takes place in the morning, as you sometimes have it. Wedding before breakfast -- in such a sleepy and hungry hour! The  "diamond edition of humanity"  are not in such a hurry to get married as that. It occurs with us generally in the evening. Naturally, all will be very anxious about the weather on this important day, so they will get up early and look at the sky, though we cannot depend safely on the weather in the morning. It varies according to the season. This very day will be the busiest and most anxious day of all their lives to the expectant couple.
       The bride will take great pains to polish and smooth her face with rice bran, and paint it with  "Oshiroi" (white powder), and also paint her lips with "Beni" (red color). In my judgment, there are no such skillful painters in the wide world as the Japanese ladies. It takes a longer time than usual to paint and dress her hair for this important event.
       The bride's wedding-dress is generally pure white -- three or four comely patterned, long garments we call "Kimono." Generally a lady's sleeve is one foot four inches long; but the wedding "Kimono's" sleeve is two feet five inches long, so we call such a dress "Furisode." Her sash, called "Obi" is eleven feet long and eight a half inches wide. She wears white stockings with the divided toe, all of these made from rich silk of various kinds. A thick cover made of floss silk hides her head and face. Any Japanese lady dressed in this way will be very pretty, becoming, and attractive.
       The bridegroom is dressed in "Kamishimo," a peculiar dress worn on this occasion, and made of various kinds of silk, its colors differing according to the rank to which he belongs.
       The wedding ceremony will always take place in the bridegroom's house, where the main room has been decorated for the purpose. Wedding decorations are very simple. Of course the room will be cleaned with great care, and generally they will change the matting for new, and the door-sash ought to be recovered with white paper. The ''Tokonoma,'' -- or that part of the room which is raised a few inches above the floor -- should be decorated with pine, bamboo, and plum blossoms in vases, with three pictures appropriate to the occasion hanging on the wall of this ''Tokonoma.'' Pine, bamboo, and plum are very lucky flowers for the wedding. In the middle of the room we put a small table made of white-wood, upon which is an artificial pine-tree, and at either end of the table is an old man and an old woman. These are dolls, dressed in the ancient style. The meaning of this decoration is a wish for long life and prosperity to the bride and groom.
       Before the evening of the wedding-day the bridegroom sends a few persons to the bride's house to welcome the bride. Then, when all things are ready, they kindle a little fire in the entrance to the bride's home, and she is carried by in a ''Kago,'' or ''Norimono,'' to her future home. On this occasion, as at a funeral, the ''Kago'' is carried by two persons, the back end foremost. Her father and mother, the Go-between, the friends who came to welcome the bride, and a few servants, follow in a procession. The servants carry presents for the bride- groom's family, and all have brightly lighted lanterns, bearing the crest of the bride's family. These presents are for every member of the bridegroom's family, including the servants. The bride will be treated by the servants according to the present they have received, so her father must be very generous in the wedding-gifts.
       There are two theories about the custom of using, on such a happy occasion, ceremonies like a funeral -- the bride dressing in white, and being carried in a ''Kago,'' and the kindling of a fire at the entrance of her home. The first is that the fire and the white denote purity, and so are very appropriate to be used on such an occasion. The second theory is that, although the wedding is without doubt a joyful occasion, yet when a girl becomes a bride and leaves her father's home, she is already dead to her father and mother, and lives now only for her husband, and she is going to die in her husband's home. Hence the use of funeral ceremonies.
       This latter theory is nearer the truth, for many other customs at the time indicate the connection in their thoughts with a funeral.
       If the bridegroom lives in the city, then the houses on his street will be decorated with lanterns hung in the entrances for congratulations. When the bride comes to the home of the groom she will be
taken first to the dressing-room. Here, with the aid of the looking-glass and by the assistance of her maids, she will arrange her dress and then wait for the ceremony.
       Now all things are ready, and the bride comes, moving slowly and gracefully, into the chief room, which has been decorated for the ceremony. The bridegroom is already seated on the upper seat on the front of the ''Tokonoma,'' and is waiting in a solemn manner for the bride. She comes and takes the next seat to him, which is a lower seat, and the Go-between sits down in front of the couple. By the side of the bride will sit two married ladies or two little girls.
      When all are seated quietly and in a dignified manner, one or two voices will be heard in the next room singing a Japanese song, ''Utai,'' without instrumental accompaniment, and this solo or duet will continue through the whole ceremony.
       A small table is now brought in, made of white-wood, about one foot square and a foot and a half high. Upon it are three flat cups, the first one small, the second larger, and the third larger still. This is
placed in front of the bride, and one of the ladies or little girls sitting by her will pour out a little  ''sake'' (Japanese wine) into the cups from a wine jar, which is decorated with butterflies made of paper.
       After all have retired, the wife of the Go-between will take the couple to their bedroom, and after they are in bed another cup of wine will be exchanged by the bride and bridegroom in the presence of the wife of the Go-between. This ends the ceremony.
       When a woman marries she simply changes her name, and the new name is registered in the Government office, which is the public acknowledgment by the Government that they are married. There is no regular rule to pay a fee to the Go-between, as in America you do to the minister, but generally he receives a great deal of money as thanks for what he has done for the couple. He naturally expects a good fee, and if it is not paid him he will come often to borrow money. As I have already stated, marriage is a very expensive thing in every way in Japan; but if we are in Japan, we cannot help it -- we must marry, anyway.
       Marriage is one of three great ceremonies in Japan. Every Japanese must observe these three great events. When he is married he has already celebrated two of them -- birth and marriage; and the third ceremony to be celebrated is death. by Tamura Naomi, 1893

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