Wedding photographers Tomato Red Motion have created a stunning short film, shot in Taketa, Oita Prefecture, Japan, showing a traditional Japanese Shinto wedding, and a few of the ritual elements that are normally a part of a Shinto wedding.
In this short movie, the selection and making of the wedding cake is highlighted as the bride chooses a traditional sweet that’s been eaten in her family for generations, in leiu of a modern Western-style wedding cake. They are flavors she is familiar with, knows, and loves. It is to honor her family and her family’s matrimonial traditions.
A Shinto wedding ceremony is a solemn, formal affair, steeped in symbolism, meaning, and intricate attention to detail of manners and etiquette.
This particular wedding tradition began in the late 19th century and was popularized by Japanese royalty at that time. It is a fairly modern style of wedding. While still popular, a contemporary Western style wedding with mode of dress and party also caught on in Japan since the wedding of Prince Charles and Princess Diana–100 years after Shinto weddings began.
The main theme of Shinto rituals is purification, and so it is included in Shinto weddings. It begins with the bride and groom walking to a shrine together, dressed in elegant clothing as they present their union to the gods and seek blessings for their future together.
The groom wears a black kimono called a montsuki haori hakama, which carries his family crest. The bride wears an all-white kimono at the ceremony, and the color represents sacredness and purity. At the after-party, she will change into more colorful and festive attire.
According to Shinto belief, gods see people unknowingly commit all kinds of sins in everyday life. Therefore, the wedding ceremony begins with a purification ritual performed by the Shinto priest to eliminate impurities from the couple. Then all people in attendance bow to the gods in gratitude.
The priest hands an offering to the couple, and the couple, in turn, offers it to the gods. The new couple is welcomed thereafter.
The priest then reads a statement to the couple, announcing they will be formally and officially married, and promises them they will be happy for a lifetime. They then drink three sips each of sake, which is rice wine. The bride first, and then the groom.
The bride or groom, and sometimes both take an oath of sincerity of the union before the gods and everyone in attendance as witness, and there is bowing and clapping that is part of this ritual. The rings are then exchanged and put on.
At this time, each family member has their own glass of sake, and drinks a toast to the couple.
The couple are now officially a strong union and according to Shinto belief they now carry a sacred power in the upright things they do as a couple. Because of this, the offering they give the priest will be treasured and honored by him.
At the end of the ceremony, everyone attending bows to God once more. As they leave and walk down the street in their neighborhood now as a couple, well-wishers greet them and give them blessings. Ayaki and Miwa are announcing their sacred union to the community.
Japanese men are traditionally aggressive in manner while courting, taking the initiative to play the role as the dominant energy most times.
For the women, it is an honored tradition to take a more gentle and passive role during courtship. Although it may seem antiquated, it smooths the process, and sets the pace for expectations in her future responsibilities as wife and mother, and his future responsibilities as husband, father and provider. She will feel comfort in being protected and cared for during times when she is physically most vulnerable–during pregnancy and the early years of motherhood.
As they mature together, they both are expected to grow in wisdom, and create a stronger sacred power with time. Elders are viewed as valuable bearers of knowledge and wisdom, rather than as burdens to their family. This union begins with the wedding ceremony.
You may have heard how marriage is on the decline in Japan, and this has been heavily attributed to that community involvement and keeping of tradition–that fueled the marriage culture–has been on the decline. There are less matchmakers setting up couples, and in a naturally introverted society, this has created less opportunities to find a likely match.
There is also the fact that more women have joined the workforce, and there are less economically competent men to match up with for the independent, working Japanese woman. Many prefer to stay single rather than marry an unlikely match.
The closing scene is of the bride enjoying her cake. She takes great joy in keeping family and cultural tradition.