This blog post is a reference for weddings and it may go into nauseating detail. But it was a really good one.
Technically, Dew and Yoshimi were married several months ago, in a small beaurocratic exchange of paperwork in a Tokyo government office. But where is the fun in that?
Dew is an ususually idosyncratic Japanese architect with a flair for the dramatic and playful. Yoshimi is a sweet and lovely accomplished Ikebana flower arranger, who comes from a family of dairy farmers. A farm wedding was in order.
Saori and I received an invitation in the mail and then a follow up once we had replied. The follow up was a detailed A3 sheet with instructions for where to meet in Tokyo, the overall theme of the wedding, notes on attire and lodging, and brief bios of the various people who key players in the wedding.
We met at the arranged time at Tokyo central station, which was probably selected because it is at the center of the Tokyo transportation network and the Japanese bullet trains. Two of Dews local friends were there with small flags with the logo Dew made particularly for the wedding. We checked in with them and waited about half an hour before one of our hosts announced we were all getting on the bus, and on we went.
The trip was a straight shot to Nasu, about three hours long, which is at the far end of what seems like a reasonable bus trip. We unloaded at the site, a countryside area dotted with small inns with rental cabins and farms.
Dew had been out on the site repeatedly over the past few weeks, pouring simple foundations and building the pavillion, and he had been there for the past day or two with a dozen or so friends and family doing the final set up.
I would estimate that the total size of the wedding party was around 150 people, the vast majority of whom seemed to be friends of Dew and Yoshimi as well as the apparently the entire KDA office.
Dew was wearing the traditional hakama robes for weddings, with the emblem of Yoshimi's family on it. Off the bus, we dropped our luggage at the guesthouse and joined a reception line at the guesthouse to officially greet Dew and have him welcome us. According to Saori, Dew kept a lot of the traditions from typical Japanese weddings. Also at the guesthouse, Saori changed dresses into something more formal. The guesthouse had bathrooms (or at least, a bathroom), and segregated male and female areas for changing. It was also the bride's dressing room.
Anyway, after meeting up with friends and saying hello to Dew we followed people down to the pavillion. The pavilion was made up a large ring of simple plywood tables sitting on wooden sawhorses, surrounded by a ring of posts and beams, from which white, gauzy tul was fixed and hung to about a half meter of the ground to form a continuous billowy enclosure. The tul was bought from Ikea, and I have no idea where he got the plywood.
The ring table had a sign in wedding book, and each couple were issued a disposable camera which were numbered so they would know who took which photos. We also had our picture taken with an instant develop camera which we signed and then the photo was taken to be placed on a stick around the site. The entire site was actually filled with photos of Dew and Yoshimi affixed to small sticks. There were at least two people doing sign in and explaining the cameras, etc.
The ground was dirt and grass, basically, which is why Dew warned people against heels. We walked around the table, part of which had been laid out with a spread of olives, cheeses, vegitables, and small appetisers and hors d'vours. Beers were served out of a large galvinized feed bucket filled with icewater. Three types of beer, all local, although they also had red and white wine. Everything was open- no cash bar, no tip jar. I never felt like I was asking for too much or that there was too limited of a supply (although the beer did run out towards the end of the night).
The pavilion was surrounded by a variety of seating from tree trunk stools to benches, haybales covered with small simple Ikea floor rugs to proper picnic tables and chairs. Also scattered around were tons of candles and lanterns and flowers.
We drank and snacked for about an hour or two and then we were led to the crop circle, a patch of barley field which had been spared from mowing except for a wide circle in the center. At one end, there was a small dais created with a stack of wooden pallets which is where Dew waited with his mom and the officiator of the service, Astrid K, one of the heads of KDA in Tokyo where Dew works. Mark D, the other head, was also there. He was the pilot of a drone which buzzed around and filmed the whole thing from the air, which was actually kind of irriating when the ceremony was happening.
Yoshimi made a dramatic appearance in her wedding kimono riding on her dad's farming tractor, appearing to float over the eye height barley. She came into the clearing escorted by her father, who took up a position also at the front as she came up to join Dew on the small dias.
Astrid delivered the vows in Japanese- she used the similie of baking a cake to describe marriage (pinch of this, a cup of that, etc.) and asked both in turn if they wanted to make this cake. "Hai" all around, and everyone clapped. Simple ceremony really. Then everyone came up and congratulated the couple with hugs, bows, and handshakes. Then it was time for lots of photos as people came up and took photos in groups with the couple.
There was a professional photographer there, but he was probably redundant as I would be hard pressed to pick out the professional from all the people shooting the couple with DSLR cameras. He did take some group shots from a ladder though. Additionally, there were at least two people coordinating the entire thing on the ground with ear peices and clipboards making everything was going smoothly.
We went back to the main ring and the reception commenced. It was kicked off by the best roast beef I have ever had. The marbeling was exquisite. It actually served in lieu of the cake since Dew and Yoshimi carved the first peice together. Everyone lined up and got a new plate of food including a few thin slices. There were a series of toasts where everyone cheered the couple, and Dew drank from a carton of milk from Yoshimi's family farm. Dessert was brought out consisting of a chocolate mousse.
A few different cuts of meat came out to be grilled on a big steel drum grill in the center of the ring, where more chairs were set up, including some link pork sausage which was not only the best sausage I'd ever had, but also best ever had by the German guy I was talking to.
We ate, drank, and chatted for at least four or five more hours. When it got dark, they switched on a grid of hanging bulbs strung over the pavillion, lit the candles around, and everything looked fantastic.
Yoshimi and Dew called everyones attention to the gift bags and explained what was inside. The gift bags themselves were made of waxed canvas with a colored strap, a gift itself, and included a small soap and a small jar of jam packed in paper shreds from Yoshimi's hometown. The people who were going back to Tokyo that night, then filed by, thanking the couple, and bringing the bags with them to the bus which drove off into the night, to deliver them all probably around 11 or 12 back to central Tokyo.
And that was the end of the official wedding. The 40 of us remaining as special guests for the night stayed and drank and ate and chatted on for another few hours, late into the night. We were split into four groups and we walked over to the guest houses. Each guest house was basicaly a small Japanese cottage with a small kitchen, a bathoom, and some rooms with stacks of futons. Saori and I were in the Gaijin (foreigner) house along with many of the KDA people including the K and the D themselves. The 14 of us spread out futons and basically covered the entire floor.
But first, there was an afterparty mostly fueled by Mark D, Dew's boss, who made a run to the local convenience store for more beers, ice, gin, and Shu-Hi, a canned mixed drink with shochu and grapefruit. We sat on the wood deck outside the door of the gaijin house and drank and talked until about 4 am when the battery on Mark's iphone died and he couldn't show the remaining three of us any more Eddie Izzard clips on YouTube.
The next day the people who stayed the night helped break everything down and clean up, fueled by the copious iced tea and farm fresh yogurt laid out by the pavilion.