Marriage and Weddings in Japan

Early this year I attended a farewell party for one of my JTE’s. It was just an ordinary party; give a toast, eat food, and drink copious amounts of alcohol. After an hour of drinking my two co-workers that were sitting across from the rest of the group dropped big news. They had been dating for two years and were married the month prior. Of course no one had the slightest idea that this had happened or that either was interested in the other. The group thought it was a joke but then the rings were shown and it became evident, a Japanese wedding celebration was just around the corner.

When living in Japan, chances are likely that you will be invited to a friends or coworker’s Japanese wedding. Originally, all I knew was that Japanese weddings are notorious for being expensive(there is good reason for that.) Although it was expensive, I decided that was a unique opportunity.

If you have the opportunity to attend a wedding while in Japan, here are some tips and information to help you survive your first Japanese wedding.
*I cannot vouch for how all Japanese weddings run but here is my experience.*

*Guests enter the venue.
*Grand entrance of the wedding couple.
*Introduction of the bride and groom: Information about their birthday, the schools and clubs they attended, and so on.
*A toast followed by the cutting of the wedding cake.
*Meal- During this time you can wish the couple luck by pouring the couple beer.
*Speeches: If they work at a school there will be speeches by the Principal and Vice Principal.
*The Bride leaves to change outfits.
*The Groom talks with guests and then leaves to change outfits.
*The meal continues.
*The couple reenters wearing traditional kimono.
*The couple visits each table and takes pictures. After that they go back to the front and you can greet them there.
*Lighting of the marriage candle.
*The Bride addresses her family with a thank you letter and then she addresses the Groom’s family. After this the Groom’s father gives a short speech.
*Closing ceremony- After closing you can take the flowers home. (Note: the tin foil is not to take home food it is for the flowers.)
*Guests leave. On the way out you go and congratulate the couple and their family one last time. The couple gives the guests a small gift.

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jayne Jayne Arnold is a 3rd year ALT in Kagoshima City

In Case of Emergency

You’ve seen the news about Japan’s earthquakes. You know about the typhoons. And by now, you’ve probably heard that your neighbor is an extremely active volcano. All this information would cause anyone to be nervous. Lucky for you, we have some resources to ease your worried mind.

The Prefectural Website has compiled an extensive list of links on how to handle your next natural disaster. You can find that list HERE. Resources include

  • How to prepare an emergency kit
  • How to evacuate
  • What to do in an earthquake, typhoon, eruption or tsunami such as:

A Tip for Drivers – if you find yourself in a car during an earthquake:

  1. Pull over to the side of the road
  2. Turn off the engine, turn on the radio for updates
  3. Put on your emergency brake/hand brake
  4. Stay in the vehicle until shaking stops
  5. You can exit the car once the shaking stops

IF YOU FEEL UNSAFE IN THE WORKPLACE

The prefectural website also has a list of contacts to report any kind of workplace harassment. CLAIR also offers counseling for long-term issues. You can find those HERE.

Finally, here is a quick list of emergency numbers to have on hand in case of the worst. They can also be found on the Prefectural Website:

  • Police (keisatsu / 警察) 110
  • Ambulance (kyuukyuusha / 救急車) 119
  • Fire (shoubousha / 消防車) 119
    • From green pay phones: Lift the receiver, push the red emergency button, and dial.
    • From grey pay phones: Lift the receiver and dial.

 

So You’re Going to Wear a Kimono: A Beginner’s Guide for Women

Post by Melissa Masson, an ALT in Izumi

 

Maybe you’ve been in Japan for a few months (or a few years) and have finally decided to emulate the people you see in the Japanese tourism posters: You’re going to wear a kimono. Perhaps you’ve also heard the rumors that putting on a kimono is.. something of an adventure. In fact, people train for years to learn the art of kimono wearing.

No pressure, right? Right!

This information is aimed primarily at those women planning to attend the kimono event for KAJET in December, but is quite similar to what you’d expect for any kimono-wearing event or festival.

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Preparation

Clothes: Be aware that you will be changing in a room around other women, and that your undergarments may be seen by other women. If this makes you uncomfortable, plan ahead. Most Japanese women wear undershirts like tank tops or camisoles and long underpants underneath.
 
Hair and make-up: The traditional style is to have it up. Most kimono places will also do hair and make-up. This service may be available at certain times at the Izumi event. If you bring an elegant hair clip and pins, this is recommended. For the Izumi event, it’s wise to do your make-up beforehand if you have a strong preference.

Getting Changed

When you arrive, you’ll be escorted to a room with a number of kimonos available. Choose your favorite design – checking to make sure it’s not too short or too long, as it should just about hit the floor – and then choose your obi (kimono belt) to match. Often, Japanese people will encourage you to choose an obi that stands out/contrasts with the colors of the kimono. They will then ask you to choose undergarments (to be worn over your own).
 
Once you’ve gotten your kimono, obi, undergarments and tabi socks, you can move to the changing area. Be careful that your under-layers do not have long sleeves, as your kimono may move and reveal them. We can’t have a ruined maiko-esque shot! You’ll be directed how to wear the undergarments, and in what order.
 
From this point, a woman will assist you in putting on the kimono. Each layer has a specific way of being pinned/draped. As you are dressed, you can maybe assist in holding something or keeping the folds together, but your job is primarily to act as the perfect mannequin.

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After Changing

Once you’re done, leave your belongings in an unobtrusive place in the changing room. If you are worried about something being stolen, it’s best that you leave it in your car beforehand. Scurrying back to your car in a kimono may take longer than anticipated.
 
All dolled up? Now it’s time to head out on the town. The samurai town, that is. Take some pictures in the traditional Japanese garden, see the preserved samurai-era streets and residence gates, visit a preserved samurai residence and participate in a simplified traditional tea ceremony while listening to the relaxing sounds of the Japanese koto.
 
If you can’t make it to the Izumi event, then there are other chances around Japan to dress up in kimono, some may even include paid-for photos. Kyoto is famous for these events and is a great place to go to see original kimono dressing, song and dance performances. Just Google it or ask a JTE at your school- Don’t let this chance pass you by!

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Waido! Waido! The Bullfighting Island of Tokunoshima

By Micah Mizukami, an ALT in Amagi-cho (Tokunoshima)

 

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For many, bullfighting conjures images of Spain and its matadors with red capes. The first thing that comes to mind is probably not a tiny tropical island located between Okinawa and Kagoshima, especially one that most people have never heard of. However, this tiny tropical island called Tokunoshima is essentially the capital of bullfighting in Japan. Unlike Spanish bullfighting, however, bullfighting on Tokunoshima pits two bulls against each other.
 
Bullfighting (tougyu in Japanese) is believed to have started about 400 years ago in the Ryukyu Islands, including Okinawa and the Amami Islands. On Tokunoshima, the bullfight beings with each bull entering the ring with its owners and supporters, who beat taiko drums, play horns, whistle, and dance in excitement. The two bulls lock horns and butt heads until one bull runs away in defeat. During the fight, one trainer from each team stays in the ring alongside the bull encouraging it to fight. Once the fight is over, the drums and horns start up again in celebration and bull trainers and their supporters ride the bulls in delight. They cry out, “Waido! Waido!” – a traditional bullfighting cheer – to express their euphoria. (An example can be seen here.).
 
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Here on Tokunoshima, with a population of about 27,000 people, bullfighting is a way of life. It is not uncommon to see trainers walking their bulls on the road or on the beach. Many children also aspire to continue Tokunoshima’s tradition of bullfighting. In the classroom, children break out dancing while shouting “Waido! Waido!” to celebrate winning a game. During lunch breaks, students even fold simple origami bulls to fight.
 
On Tokunoshima there are three championship bullfights a year – in January, May, and October. If you ever find yourself on Tokunoshima during one of these months, please check out a bullfight and experience Tokunoshima’s unique waido culture.
 
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