Last time I was in Japan was for our wedding, a traditional Shinto ceremony at Meiji Jingu in the center of Tokyo. This weekend we had the pleasure of attending some friends’ wedding and it was a very different affair: a ‘chapel’ style ceremony in a luxury restaurant on the 32nd floor of a skyscraper in Shibuya!

Omedetou gozaimasu Emi-chan & Mu-yan!!!

Western style weddings are increasingly popular amongst young Japanese, with many young women in particular having grown up with dreams of one day donning a white dress to walk down the aisle.

The key word here is ‘style’. The chapels in question are usually temporary set ups in expensive hotels rather than bona fide churches (although one businessman has got around the distinction by building an exact replica of All Saints Church, Brockhampton, on the 21st floor of a hotel in Osaka) and the ceremonies generally lack any Christian connotations. It’s more the romantic associations of the white wedding aesthetic that appeals, the fairytale dresses and morning suits.

This is perhaps no surprise coming from a culture that has a separate alphabet just to spell adopted foreign words (カタカナ or katakana). Japan is no stranger to borrowing from other cultures and then adapting to local sensibilities. ‘Chapel’ weddings have for the most part just become part of modern Japanese culture.

What was different about our friends’ wedding was that it was a proper Christian service – ordained vicar, 1 Corinthians 13, hymns and all…

Whilst this seemed a little strange at first, it’s something that on reflection I can relate to, having had a Shinto wedding myself. Whilst the specific meaning of much of the ceremony may have been lost on me, something about the ritual definitely helped add meaning to the ceremony. In fact, something about the unfamiliarity, free from any baggage, arguably allows more space for personal meaning, more room for the spiritual as opposed to the religious.

Following the ceremony itself was the reception – still very much a Japanese affair with the bride’s family hosting & serving drinks to guests, half of whom were work colleagues. Speeches were given not only by family and friends but also by the bosses of both the bride & groom, who sat facing the guests on their own table at the front of the room. Videos were shown of the happy couple talking about how they met. For the groom, a journalist with a fighting magazine, there was also a video of birthday wishes from the stars of K1 and Japanese wrestling. All-in-all a wonderful day!

Another element of Japanese borrowing and adapting to local culture was evident in the food served on the day. The restaurant hosting the day – La Rochelle – is owned by an original Iron ChefSakai Hiroyuki, and the menu was French but with a distinctly Japanese twist. Japanese weddings are typically quite lavish affairs and guests each give a ‘gift’ of around ¥30,000 to attend and so needless to say, the food was absolutely excellent. Here are just a few of the highlights (warning, food porn follows!!)…

Amuse-bouches

Homard rôti, st-jacque poêlée et risotto sauce au beurre et jus de coquillage

Entrecôte de beouf grillé parfumé au Wasabi

BONUS VIDEO: Sakai Hiroyuki, the Iron Chef, in action (he’s the one in red – 6:00)…

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