Yoyogi Park appears like a veritable forest in the center of the only seemingly chaotic vastness of precast concrete and neon that it has become. Tokyo.
There are more than 700.000m2 filled with 120.000 trees of 365 different species donated by Japanese people from all over when the Menji Jingu temple was built, from 1915 to 1926.
The eponymous emperor had completed the most productive political-cultural reform on record, including the passing of the court from Kyoto to Edo (the then Tokyo).
After the leader's death, the Japanese parliament (Diet) approved the celebration of his life and work, in the form of a cypress and copper shrine in the heart of the garden in which the Emperor and Empress Shöken used to walk around.
At that time, the views and the company had little to do with today.
Whoever interrupts the circular journey on the Yamanote line and leaves for the first time at the Harajuku station, is surprised by the obvious predominance of youth explained by the confluence near the most sophisticated and refined neighborhoods in the capital, Shibuya, Omotesando and Harajuku himself.
The Majestic and Leafy Approach to the Meiji Temple
He also realizes that cosplay fans, as well as other teenagers on the fringes of the capital's rigid society, have, in that place, a kind of privileged meeting point.
Right next door, but under the cover of vegetation, there is a tori gigantic. From this Shinto portal of the Meiji temple onwards, a wide gravel avenue begins that connects modern-day machine-like Tokyo to the classical city that preceded it until the great destruction caused by the end of World War II.
We walk through it side by side with one of these alternative clans that differ from other passersby due to the eccentric visuals.
Meiji Temple: the Shinto Stronghold of Traditional Marriages
We arrive at what looks like the back of a wing of the Meiji Temple. There, still on gravel, we find a kind of photographic flank of a traditional wedding.
Three seamstresses adjust different flaps of the bride's white dress. Then they put on her tiny, secular-style shoes.
Composed of the lower section of the costume, they are then dedicated to the headdress wataboshi that protects the top of the wig that another professional touches up masterfully.
Sometimes the tsunokakushi, a model designed to hide the forelock and contain the bride's signs of selfishness and self-centeredness. It thus symbolizes her resolve to become a gentle and obedient wife.
Photographs of the bride and groom and their families can be taken before or after the ceremony. In either case, they are seen as an expression of the couple's future and the session that produces them is considered the central stage of marriage. Okay, the conventional wedding photographer we're used to doesn't make sense there.
Japanese Fashion Wedding Photography
The process takes much longer than the Shinto ceremonial that follows. It is carried out in series which means that the same workers take care of grooms after grooms.
The team responsible for the images is made up of several elements dressed with as much or more elegance than the guests. You have at your disposal a millionaire equipment – largely medium-format – that operates in an almost scientific way.
One of those responsible uses a photometer and his own hand, newly freed from its immaculate white fists, to obtain a judicious measurement of the light on the bride's face.
Soon after, this is seated and recomposed in a chair beside the groom. Then, members of the small battalion in suit, hold a reflector, raise a flash that fires out of sympathy, at the same time as the invaluable main camera.
Dozens of family members and guests take advantage of the effort behind the professionals, with their small cameras and telephones.
As if that wasn't enough, there is also an independent photographer colleague who moves and captures images outside the frame worked to the point of exhaustion, if necessary using a shovel and broom, to remove any and all stains from the memory.
As with seamstresses and makeup artists, perfectionism is imperative. May God protect those temple servants – the teams are residents – from the disgrace of failing in the task of projecting the lives of any compatriot couple or of disappointing the families who have invested worlds and funds in the excellence of the ceremony.
The Meiji Temple Millionaire Weddings
In Japan, a wedding for 50 to 100 guests can cost from 20 to 80 euros, of which, if they include a Shinto ceremony, a sum of between 700 and 1000 euros goes to the host shrine.
In 2011, the average spent per wedding was almost 26.500 euros (at the current rate of the yen), 411 per guest. In turn, the average total return obtained from the guests was 17.300 euros. Only money is expected, and some couples even determine a fixed amount to help cover the always high costs.
The hiring of the groom's suit costs 500 euros. The 5 kimonos and dresses worn by the bride can easily exceed 8 thousand euros.
As soon as the session with the protagonists ends, the group photographs take place. First, with the direct family around the newlyweds, they still and always on a thick, round gray carpet.
Then, prominently displayed, but in the company of the most intimate guests, in chairs arranged on several levels and in an almost pyramidal shape. Although restricted, the entourage is numerous. An assistant photographer uses a miniature tambourine to get everyone's attention.
Only this group attends the religious ceremony. As a rule, dozens of other guests only attend the party that follows.
In the temple, the bride and groom's guests begin by being led to different rooms and instructed about their participation.
Shinto Rites and Rituals that Bless the Marriage
Then they wait for the entrance of the procession that a Shinto priest leads through the outer court, followed by two mikos (young religious women) and by the bride and groom who another helper protects from the elements with a red sun hat.
After the entrance to this procession, all present bow reverently to the altar. The priest intones a little speech and brandishes a haraigushi (a branch of a sacred tree with strips of cloth or paper tied together). Finally, he sings an evocation of several gods and declares the bride and groom married.
The spirited phase of the ceremony arrives. One of mikos brings sake to the betrothed and serves it in small glasses. The groom drinks first in three goals, the bride does the same. The drink is also served to the parents of both and shared between all. The last of the consecrations comes under the shared cry of “omedeto gozimasu" (Happy birthday).
Then, the groom reads the marital vows, the miko read the date of marriage and the names of the bride and groom. As husband and wife, they carry out an offer of tamagushi (small branches of such a sacred tree) to the spirits of Nature. Everyone present bows twice, claps their hands and bows again.
Luxury Rings, Clothes, Bags and Other Props: Very Fauscious Religious Weddings
More and more couples exchange rings. Until some time ago, only a small percentage of Japanese people did. Then, in the 60s, the powerful diamond company De Beers launched a marketing offensive in the country and seduced Japanese women with television and press images that promoted diamonds as a symbol of sexuality and Western ostentation.
The ceremony we witnessed ends and the same procession that entered the temple takes the opposite route.
We noticed that all women hold their suitcases and purses that match the clothes, invariably, of the most reputable Western brands.
The procession ends at the end of the temple and the car park is not far away. Guests access their cars, the groom, to the limousine that awaits the newlyweds.
But the bride cannot move under so much fabric, let alone assume a position other than upright, or get into a car.
The husband, from the inside, and a family member, from the outside, help to seat her in her place, an exercise that even requires the opening of the roof.
Once the distressing fit is achieved, the driver transports the couple to the party to take place in any hotel room in the city.
In the photograph wing of the sanctuary, the assigned teams treat one more couple. Another is led to the entrance of the temple by a new Shinto entourage.
We are on a favorable day of the superstitious Japanese calendar rokuyo. The Meiji temple weddings seem to have no end.