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Born in Stockholm (Sweden), now live in Sapporo (Japan). Hold a Ph.D. in computer science and work with computers during the days, perform magic in a bar during the nights (and weekends, for kids). Also used to teach historical fencing back in Sweden.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Japanese wedding

The cute couple. The view in the background and the food in the foreground were also very nice.

The reason I went to Osaka was to attend my friend's wedding. We first met when I was back in Sweden after living 6 months in Sapporo. My friend was studying Swedish in Stockholm and had put up a note on a notice board that she wanted to practice Swedish conversation and would teach Japanese conversation in return. I wanted to keep my Japanese fresh so as not to forget everything I had learnt during half a year in Japan. We met something like 6 times and spoke Swedish and Japanese.

Me and my friend in 2006. The photo was taken by a little girls, since the man we asked to take a photo was almost 100% blind but his daughter volunteered to take a photo instead.
Later, when I had moved to Sapporo again and my friend was back in Kobe (where she grew up) I visited her two times when I was in the Kobe area. Once when I was attending a conference nearby (in Otsu) and once when I stopped over at Osaka airport on my way back to Sapporo from a visit to Sweden. My friend also came to Kyoto (which is not far from Kobe) and walked around all the famous temples etc. there for two days with me and my parents when my parents came to Japan for the first time.

I found two photos of me and my brother in a collection of photos from their life up till now.
When I was in Osaka last month for a project meeting we also met for dinner, and she asked if I had time to come to her wedding. As I happened to be in Japan at this time, of course I went. Japanese weddings are very nice, though some of the customs are also very peculiar to me, haha.

The Ceremony

The ceremony was a nice Western style Japanese wedding. There was a ceremony with a foreign priest (who spoke Japanese, English, and French during the ceremony) in a cute little chapel.

The Wedding Cake

After the ceremony in the chapel and a photo sessions in the garden, it was time for food. First the newly wed couple cut the wedding cake together and served each other the first bite. The spoon used for the groom was somewhat large.

The Food

In Japan, food is important so there was of course also a very nice lunch. The food was excellent. They had also added dishes with things the bride and groom like. My friend always claims her favorite food is "renkon" (lotus roots). She had also listed chocolate and strawberries as favorite foods, so there was a renkon salad, and chocolate and strawberries showed up in various dishes.

The Photographer

The photographer documenting the event was very good. He was also very funny. He had good ways to get small children look at the camera, and he had great ways to get grown ups to laugh.
The photographer on the second floor tries to get everyone to stand in a big heart shape, which is difficult since you cannot get a feel for where in the heart you are or if the rest of the people are standing heart shaped or not. During his directions of who was to move in what direction, he kept calling one group of men "the Hamsters".
Taking a close up of one of the Hamsters.
The photographer had attended an American university so he spoke English very well. He also wrote his name as "Westfield", though in Japanese he would probably be "Nishino" (with the Chinese characters for "west" and "field").

The Hamsters

The photographer kept referring to the co-workers or friends (I never really found out what their connection was) of the groom as "the Hamsters". I ended up sitting with them for the lunch, so I asked them what this "Hamsters" thing was. A baseball team, perhaps? (The groom had played baseball a lot when he was younger). They said that they had never heard of the Hamsters either, and that it was just something the photographer had made up.

They thought I looked lonely, since I was the only one there attending alone (everyone else came with their families, with the rest of the friend group, the rest of the colleagues, etc.). Every time there was a new photo opportunity everyone else went there in groups to take photos, and I ended up taking a photo alone with the bride and groom. The hamsters took pity on me and told me to come and be in their picture.

The Hamsters, when asked to stand in a photo frame or away from the rest of the group near a lamp post, or asked to hold strange objects. They asked the photographer if he was sure this was funny, and he assured them that it would be great.
Me and the Hamsters. I later asked if it would be possible to take a picture with no Hamsters in it, and they pretended to be upset about my betrayal. And about me calling them hamsters.
The Hamsters when leaving.

The Weird Foreigner

I was the only one attending alone, the only one travelling far (the rest came from Kobe, Osaka, or Tokyo), and the only foreigner. Apart from my friend, who was very busy changing clothes, being photographed, etc., the only people I had ever met was one of my friend's friends (we met once 6 years ago for an hour or so) and my friend's mother who I spoke to once 6 years ago. So I looked and felt quite out of place, but in the end lots of different people came up and spoke to me about all kinds of things, so I had a great time.

There was a message card from the bride and groom for each one on the table.

The Slightly Peculiar Customs

I received a gift catalog. You can pick any one item out of this catalog of several hundred pages. It contained all kinds of stuff. There was even a set of Swedish design cups. You can also get onsen trips, kitchen knives, clothes, bags, toys, food, books, etc. This is quite common in Japan, and last time I got a catalog gift like this I picked a kitchen knife set that is very useful still.
In Japan, the wedding customs are a bit different from what is common in Sweden. One strange thing is that the bride and groom give presents to everyone attending. Lots of presents, and fairly expensive presents. The guests on the other hand hand over envelopes with cash.

One of the many gifts I received, containing sweets.
In Tokyo you give 30,000 yen, I finally learned just in time for another friend's wedding in Tokyo, after asking lots and lots of people. Everyone kept telling me "Oh, you are a foreigner, you can put any amount you want in the envelope" which is unhelpful if you have no idea of what would be normal in Japan. Finally and older woman I know told me "Oh, in Tokyo everyone gives 30,000 yen". That helps, since then you can decide to do whatever you want as a foreigner knowing what would be the normal thing to do.

I got lots of baumkuchen, in many different tastes (cheese, strawberry, caramel, chocolate, ...)

I the Kansai area (Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe, etc.) the customs are a bit different, and I was told that there the standard is 15,000 yen. I am not sure this is true, since I was told this by my friend who got married and she always tries to pay for stuff for me or to give me money, because she thinks I have paid too much and given her too much in the past (mainly because she stayed one month with my parents in Stockholm when neither me nor my brother were living there and my friend needed a place to stay when studying Swedish again).

Travel money for me, since I came from far away to attend.

This time my friend managed to pay for an expensive hotel room for me, for my taxi trips to and from the wedding space, and I found an envelope labeled "car fee" for me. It contained 30,000 yen. I am told this is common in Japan, the bride and groom give 30,000 yen in travel money to people who come from far away (and Hokkaido is far away). This meant I gave them 15,000 yen and paid around 2,000 yen in train fees (the plane tickets I got with miles collected during our endless business trips) and got a huge lunch, a hotel room, a big bag of gifts, and 30,000 yen in cash in return...

The View

Kobe is known for having one of the most beautiful night views in Japan. The wedding was held near the top of Mount Rokko, one of the places to see this great view. You could see Osaka and Kobe, and the sea. Very nice.

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