My hotel room in the Sheraton Hotel, where the wedding celebration would take place.
Attending a Japanese wedding celebration
What I really love when Iâ€™m in a foreign country are the unusual moments. Unusual experiences that you can tell people about afterwards. In Japan I had a couple of such special experiences. One of the main ones happened when one of my oldest Japanese friends Hiroki invited me to his the wedding celebration.
Iâ€™ve known Hiroki for several years already, he has been one of my very first Japanese friends.
We know each other from Montreal in Canada where we both attended a language school. He had English classes, I took an intensive French course. When I came to Japan for the first time we managed to meet the last days of my staying, he showed me around Tokyo and Iâ€™ve even met his parents who had a nice house close to Chiba. I remember how we arrived there one nice afternoon by car and how they welcomed me with big smiles in their faces. They spoke almost no English and at that time my Japanese was more a myth then the reality, so Hiroki had to play the role of an interpreter. The father showed me proudly around his garden picking some fruits he cultivated there and let me try them. And of course I had to say every time how delicious it was, hahaha. Inside of the house we sit down and drank some tea while Hirokiâ€™s parents were asking me about my life.
The mom was of course much more interested in my â€śsocial and emotionalâ€ť life, if I had a girlfriend and so, haha. She apologized then that she hadnâ€™t anything â€śappropriateâ€ť to offer me to dinner, so they decided spontaneously to take me to a restaurant where I had some great â€śtempuraâ€ť, my first one that time by the way. That was my first meeting with Hirokiâ€™s family.
My table at the wedding celebration.
Couple of years later I was back in Japan attending my exchange semester on the Tsukuba University about 100km north of Tokyo. I sent Hiroki an e-mail but he didnâ€™t answer for a while. Of course I didnâ€™t know that he was pretty busy that time.
Few weeks later I received an e-mail from my old friend asking me if Iâ€™m free on a weekend in 2 weeks. He invited me to his wedding celebration in Tokyo, wow. Of course this is not something that happens every day. I was exited and nervous the same time as I didnâ€™t know exactly what to expect. The first question was what to bring as a present. I have heard somewhere that itâ€™s common to give money, but I didnâ€™t know how much and I was too short of it anyway. The amount I could have given would be probably ridiculously low compared to the others, I had to find something else. Suddenly I bought a bottle of French wine in a special shop. Nothing special I know, but I didnâ€™t know what else to buy.
Hiroki and his bride cutting the cake.
The time passed quickly and then it was Friday, one day before the wedding celebration.
I went to Tokyo by bus (that time there was no train connection with Tsukuba, they just built it recently) and had dinner with some other friends first. I was supposed to meet Hiroki at Ueno Station at around 10pm, he wrote me which exit he will be waiting at. The main stations in Tokyo: Shinjuku, Shibuya, Ueno and Tokyo are so huge that there is no other chance to point out a meeting point rather then choosing one of the several exits. 10pm I was standing there, but Hiroki was nowhere to see. 15 minutes later I received a call, it was Hiroki asking me where I am. Believe it or not, we were maybe 20 meters from each other but missed to see the other one, hahaha. After a warm greeting Hiroki leaded me to his car where I met his wife. I should mention that at this point they were actually married already. The wedding ceremony took place already few months before and only the close family attended. The celebration of the following day was for friends, colleges, etc.
Little girl reading a poem.
Hiroki's father playing the harmonica.
Hiroki drove us to Sheraton Hotel next to Tokyo Disneyland. This was the place where the celebration was supposed to be held and this was also the place where I was supposed to spend the night as a guest of Hirokiâ€™s family. I felt somehow guilty when I found that out, but honestlyâ€¦I wouldnâ€™t have been able to pay the room by myself, hahaha.
Right after we arrived we went to the reception and Hiroki got my room key. It was pretty late already but I agreed to meet with Hirokiâ€™s mom after I would bring my stuff into the hotel room. 20 minutes later Hiroki was leading me to the hotelâ€™s bar where his mom was waiting.
She came to me with a huge smile in her face and the shining eyes of a proud mother greeting me like an old family friend. We sit down, ordered some drinks and I was asked pretty the same questions about my private life like at our first meeting, hahaha. At least my Japanese has improved a lot since then and I managed to use some full sentences, hehehe. We didnâ€™t stay for long, next day was the big day and we all needed some rest. Before going to bed I had a look from the window of my hotel room and enjoyed the amazing view with Tokyoâ€™s sea of lights.
Hiroki with his bride.
I had my alarm clock set up for 8am, but I was so exited that I was awake already 7:30. After taking a shower I stepped to the window again. The sun was shining and the weather was just beautifull (it was beginning of June). By daylight I could finally see also Tokyo Disneyland and the huge parking areas in front of it.
I got ready and went down to the reception to check out. The celebration was taking place on the 2nd floor, but I had still time left. Maybe I hoped to meet somebody I would know, but the chances were lower then low. For a couple of minutes I walked around and had a look in some little shops. Slowly I returned back to the lifts and went to the 2nd floor. There was a lady by the entrance to the celebration hall who seemed to be organizing everything here. She asked me in very good English if she could help me out so I told her that Iâ€™m one of the invited persons. It seemed that the preparations were still going on and she asked me to wait outside a bit. So I did. Slowly the other guests were coming, but I didnâ€™t know anybody so I stayed outside hoping that sooner or later I might see Hiroki or his parents. And here they were, Hiroki and his bride followed by the family. Hirokiâ€™s dad greeted me warmly and his mom took me by hand leading me inside. I looked around and realized one thing quickly. I was the only foreigner here, all the others were Japanese.
Hiroki & friends.
The mom brought me to my table and here I discovered a big blue paper bag on my seat. Of course not only on mine, every seat had such a bag. I looked inside and saw little presents and a big blue box. I opened the box much later and there were 2 glasses of Tiffanyâ€™s, wow. Iâ€™m not really used to receive presents when I attend a wedding, I usually give them, hahaha. I put the bag beside and sit down as my table neighbors were arriving as well. As I found out soon all of them were Hirokiâ€™s colleges. Hiroki put next to me one of his best friends from the company in whose case he knew that he speaks good English.
Hiroki & family.
The whole celebration took about 3 hours and seemed to be very well organized. After the official entering of Hiroki and his bride and their bow to the guests the official program started.
I donâ€™t remember the order anymore, but it consisted of the speech of Hirokiâ€™s father, the couple cutting the cake together, the speech of Hirokiâ€™s boss, a small girl reading a poem with the help of her mom, the couple pouring together a bottle of champagne on a pyramid of glasses, Hirokiâ€™s dad playing harmonica, etc, etc. In between there were little breaks for the particular course of the lunch. The food was a bit unusual for me but really good.
Odaiba in Tokyo
One of the main program points was also a woman with a microphone asking chosen guests about the life of Hiroki. She came to his boss, his colleges and so on. I was just enjoying the â€śshowâ€ť and tried to understand at least something of what theyâ€™ve been talking about. Then I caught the word â€śexchange studentâ€ť. And then some other Japanese words that could be connected with my person, damned. Could this be true? I prayed till the bitter end that they were not talking about me, but then I saw the lady with the microphone approaching me.
And of course she didnâ€™t plan to held a â€śconversationâ€ť in English, heeeeelp. At least the questions were no too difficult and I understood most of them. She wanted to kow where I met Hiroki for the first time for example. But speaking into a microphone in Japanese in front of all the Japanese guests so they could hear how awful my conversation abilities still were wasnâ€™t easy at all, hahaha. When the questions were over the lady asked me if I would like to say something to the couple. Of course I wanted, but this time I had no other choice then to switch into English to be able to express my best wishes to Hiroki and his wife.
Odaiba in Tokyo.
Honestly, when I sit down again I felt that Iâ€™ve been sweating quite a lot while I was the main part of the program, hahaaha. When the official program was over, the couple and some helping stuff were coming from table to table with a basket full with more little presents thanking the guests for coming.
When they were done with the last table the celebration was over and the guests started to move (again well organized). But before they head to the exit many of them made a stop at my table and thanked me for coming!!!!! They thanked me!!! As in Japanese the family name is usually written first they all called me Mr.Martin what was pretty funny in that moment. Latest at this point I felt like a â€śmascotâ€ť of the whole wedding, hahaha. The foreigner as a special guest, something Hirokiâ€™s family could proudly tell about their friends I guess. All the guests moved downstairs and then it was time for the photo session outside. The weather was just beautifull and the photographer was making one picture after another. Wedding couple alone, wedding couple with parents, wedding couple with friends, etc, etc. Was pretty funny and thanks god, it didnâ€™t take too long.
Odaiba in Tokyo.
When everybody was gone Hiroki asked me if I could wait downstairs at the reception.
He and his wife wanted to change their clothes and then take me to meet with their families. No problem.
A traditional Japanese room at Hiroki's place.
About half hour later they came down again, we met with their parents and wentâ€¦guess where. To a hotel restaurant, hahahaha. Unbelievable but true. As the couple has been quite busy during the celebration first because of the particular program points and then because of thanking everybody personally, they didnâ€™t have time to eat and were pretty hungry. Well, me on the other hand, I had a huge wedding lunch with several courses and was more then satisfied. But Hirokiâ€™s parents insisted that I order something, I was in a trap, hahaha. In a food trap. I ordered a little dish, but honestly, it was a hard fight. And afterwards I thought my stomach will just explode, but I managed to move somehow.
After lunch number 2 we said goodbye to everybody and Hiroki and his wife took me by car to Odaiba, one of the city parts of Tokyo.
Both seemed to be relaxed now and we enjoyed the beautifull day walking around or taking a boat on the bay. A perfect end of a busy and unforgettable day.
My friends Klemens and Shota fooling around.
To be continued...