Temple weddings and thank you dolls

Today we went off at last to the Meiji shrine– yet another lovely green patch in the middle of the city.  It’s a relatively new Shinto shrine from 1920 (then burnt in the air raids and rebuilt) that commemorates the divine souls of the Emperor Meiji and his wife.

Massive cedar Tori (gates)

There’s a long, gradual walk up the hill, lined with gardens and racks of donated sake and wine casks.


Eyebrows of doom!

We discovered today that weekends are perfect for seeing the shrine because there are wedding photo-ops every 5 minutes or so.

A happy couple (just for us tourists, I'm sure)

The actual sacred space in the temple is at the back of a giant courtyard, surrounded by lots of associated buildings from which the happy couples shuffle back and forth, escorted by priests, followed by their well-dressed guests, and manically photographed by local and foreign tourists.

The center of the courtyard also features a large, sacred camphor tree, surrounded by small votive wood blocks.

Easily the most charming sacred camphor I've seen all week

You purloin a woodblock from very friendly temple saleswomen, write you prayer, hang it around the tree, and then every few mornings they are ceremonially burnt by the priests and on goes your wish. So, in honor of my poor mum’s spectacular ladder-fall last week and her upcoming surgery:

Wishing you well, mumsie!

We also stumbled across preparations for a rather unique festival today: the festival to thank dolls.

It came as no big shock to someone who spent their early years toting around a small, snuggly confidant and partner-in-crime, but the Japanese traditionally believe that these little fellows accrue spirits thru all the constant love and attention.  Yes, centuries before the Velveteen Rabbit wormed its way into our hearts and put a face on the guilt of growing up and leaving our fuzzy (and lovingly de-fuzzed) friends behind, the Japanese were all over it with a Doll Memorial Ceremony.

(PS Yours still loves you, even if you don't go this far for it)

We’ll miss the actual ceremony tomorrow, but in preparation, the temple hosted a historical doll exhibit:

Kokeshi collection

Definitely in the "not for children" doll department

Perfectly capturing the Monday morning look

2 feet tall and real feather fletching

Ceremonial taiko drummer-- Tara in a few weeks!

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4 Responses to Temple weddings and thank you dolls

  1. Calley says:

    Those wedding outfits are fabulous! Clearly a bridal headgear that US brides should be adopting 😉 In the group picture I noticed the men were nearly all in western suits, but the women weren’t – I noticed this in India too, that western style clothes seem to be adopted much more widely by the men than women. I have no explanation, but it’s interesting… and I wonder to what extent this is true around the world.

    Anyway, thanks for sharing all the pictures of the dolls (awesome!) and I hope your mom is feeling better soon!

    • tarainjapan says:

      I suspect that the men’s business suit looks (or can be adapted to look) more formal than a women’s skirt suit (which is nearly all they wear here), so in the context of a wedding where everything is VERY formal, the conversion wouldn’t be the same (Although, I guess more women could wear western-style ballgowns or something…). Some of the dudes are wearing traditional getups, including the new husband, and one of the dads, but i dunno how that decision is made. I was guessing that one side of the family is more traditional/conservative? But i really have no idea, I’m just thinking aloud.

  2. Karen says:

    You two are the sweetest. Thank you for my prayer. I’m anxious to move foreward but I know I’ll be regressing for a few days and then it will be full speed ahead.

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