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Two Families United
Shinto Style, Japan

When a long-time friend shared the news that he was getting married I was ecstatic. Okinawan and Japanese cultures (there is a difference) are deeply rooted in Shinto, a very natural and earth-based religion. I’ll forgo talking about chopsticks and stick to Runa and Seiji’s beautiful wedding, which was predominately a Shinto ceremony. Like many of the younger generation today, they chose to integrate a few facets of western culture.

The wedding, or shin-zen shiki, was held outside among the cherry blossoms of the Shinto shrine in Okinawa’s beautiful spring weather. Along with the usual attendance of family and relatives, a select number of close friends were there as well. The ceremony was short and simple. The couple was purified by the Shinto priest, Seiji read the commitment words of faithfulness and obedience, and they drank sake in the san-san kudo ritual of exchanging nuptial cups. Runa and Seiji exchanged rings like in western weddings before making offerings in the form of twigs to the gods (kami). Sake, served by women in red and white kimonos, was then exchanged between the bride and groom’s family members and relatives. The wedding is not only a union of two people, but also their families.

Runa and Seiji looked absolutely stunning in their kimonos. Seiji wore a black kimono with a black and gray striped hakama (non-split pants that look like a long skirt), and a black haori (a shorter outer-kimono). Runa wore a white kimono and gold combs made her black hair sparkle. For the reception, she wore a rich and colourfully patterned red silk brocade kimono over her wedding gown.

The wedding reception, held in a hotel overlooking a pristine beach, was fit for royalty. After the couple was introduced, they welcomed the few hundred guests (some in kimono and some in western attire) attending from their table at the head of the banquet hall. Everyone dined well on numerous dishes, many of which were the symbolic happy colors of red and white. Then we were entertained by traditional Okinawan music and dance. Another western tradition was brought in, the cutting and sharing of cake. As customary, the majority of gifts were cash to help the newlyweds begin their new home. Whereas the wedding ceremony was short and sweet, the reception went on for quite a few hours.

In the early evening and after changing into regular clothes, Runa and Seiji departed for their long weekend away at a nearby island resort for their honeymoon, another adopted custom from western culture. Runa’s mother may have previously told her it’s her job to please her husband, sexually and generally. Since their wedding seven years ago their family has extended to include two adorable children, but that’s another story.




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