Sunday, August 5, 2007

A Wedding in Japan

We are happy to report that Jeff's son Matt and Akiko Yuasa were married in a delightful ceremony on August 4.

The wedding festivities proper began two days earlier with an elaborate dinner at a Chinese restaurant for the two families. On the left are Akiko's uncle in the foreground and dad in the back left, both doctors in Tokyo, with Akiko's mom and her sister Etsuyo in between. Etsuyo is a professor at Ohio State, and Akiko's parents and uncle spent 2 years in Boston in the 1970s, so this is a very international family! Also sitting there are Team Red Tandem, Matt and Akiko, and Matt's mom and sister Becky.

The wedding day was a typical Tokyo day for August - about 90 F and 99% humidity. Fortunately, it was almost all indoors, in the so-called Guest House of the Akasaka Prince Hotel. The guest house appears to have been just that at one time, perhaps for one of Japan's noble families in the 19th century (it's only a few blocks from the Imperial Palace). Except that the Guest House now has the 40-story Akasaka Prince Hotel in its backyard, connected to it by indoor passageways.

Akiko wore a western-style wedding dress, and was positively glowing.
The guest house is in an English Tudor style, and the wedding was in a beautiful room with wooden beams showing on the ceiling. Akiko's dad walked her up the aisle and handed her off to Matt, and the minister did the entire ceremony in both Japanese and English, alternating, except for the two hymns, # 312 and # 430, which were in Japanese (perhaps you know them, "Itsu ku shimi fu kaki" and "Imo se o chi giru, ie no uchi"?), and the wedding vows themselves, which were in English. Once you've said "I do" in one language, it sort of sounds like you didn't fully mean it if you have to say it again, even if it is in another language. After the vows, exchange of rings and first kiss, the bride and groom turned to the audience and, with good Japanese etiquette, bowed to their guests (the photo here was them practicing it a few minutes before the ceremony).

After the wedding, Matt and Akiko were ushered outside briefly (in that heat and humidity, you can believe it was kept brief), for the guests to shower them not with rice, like goofy Americans sometimes do, but with flower petals. Because Aki's dress had a long train, a small, quiet woman in a kimono followed her almost everywhere, helping lift the train off the ground whenever Akiko had to change locations. We never heard her voice, but saw many, many smiles from her.

The reception was in a larger room upstairs in the Guest House. The building also houses "Le Trianon," a very elegant French restaurant, and the meal was memorable, the mood set by the first course, "Medaillon de Homard et Coquille St.-Jacques Marinee, Tartare de Saumon Fume au Caviar." Matt's "host father" from his homestay a decade ago in Kobe was there with his family, and gave the opening toast, and various friends and family members of Akiko and Matt stood up at different times to say a few words.

Matt and Akiko had put together a video of photos of them as children at various ages, up through recent photos of the two of them. It was fun to watch them grow up so quickly. Then came the surprise of the evening. Unknown to all but a few co-conspirators, Matt had made a second video, in which he traveled to special places around Tokyo and asked Akiko if she remembered this particular club or that particular park bench. In one memorable scene, Matt stopped to eat a special Japanese dish that Aki likes but that Matt had always declined to eat, or even be within ten feet of -- natto. Natto is made from fermented soy beans, and the words non-connoisseurs usually use to describe it are "nasty," "foul-smelling," and "slimy." (It's an acquired taste, they say, like haggis or luttefisk or American hot dogs). Anyway, the look of less-than-pure-satisfaction on Matt's face, especially as some of the natto dripped from his mouth like uncooked eggs, brought tears of laughter to the guests.

Ah, but the drama continued. As Matt continued to address Akiko electronically, and as Akiko nervously watched from the dais, Matt sat down in the video and wrote her a letter, addressed it "Urgent - deliver by August 4th," and we watched him drop it in the mailbox. Just then, the video said "You've Got Mail" and a knock was heard on the door to the reception room. One of Matt's friends had slipped out of the reception and come back dressed as a Japanese Postman, and he trotted up to the dais and left the letter to howls of laughs. Matt then read the letter, and there wasn't a dry eye in the room as he told Akiko how happy and proud he was to be marrying her, and would always be.

After the wedding cake was cut by the couple and handed out to the crowd, the emcee announced in Japanese and English that the bride would have one last dance with her father, to Jerome Kern's "Just the Way You Look Tonight," followed by Matt cutting in, and a few other couples joining in the dancing. Incidentally, the astute among you may have noticed that Akiko's hair style is different in the last two pictures. Midway through the reception she left to change it, and some brides actually change their entire outfit, perhaps from a western white wedding dress to a traditional wedding kimono, to symbolize that the husband does not take her "Just the Way You Look Tonight," but in many different ways during the marriage.

Lastly, the two fathers, Dr. Yuasa and Jeff, went to the reception room door and stood beside Matt and Akiko, and each gave a parting thank you to the guests, followed by a bow to the guests by the fathers and the new couple.

Thank you for sharing in our family wedding. It was a tremendous experience, and we look forward to many happy memories with Matt and Akiko.

Thank you also to our friends the Sissons for making their computer available. We're presently in Seattle for all of 26 hours, leaving tomorrow for Milwaukee by Amtrak, followed by a 1300-mile tandem ride through Wisconsin, Michigan, Ontario and New York to Ithaca NY, where we will spend the Fall. Please check our website soon for news of the bicycling part of our adventure.

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