Back in November my middle son and I traveled to Japan to attend the wedding of the daughter of some of our dearest friends. I met this family back in the 90's when I lived in Japan and taught English.
Their daughters were 4 & 6 back then and they hired me to teach three classes in their home for the daughters and about 12 other children in the neighborhood.
After the classes were over, the mother would invite me to stay over for tea. We would chat, both with dictionaries in hand. I was learning Japanese & she was learning English.
We did this every week for two years. We became close friends. The family also invited me and my husband (fiance at the time) over for dinner often and even took us on a wonderful trip of Japanese hot springs and amusement parks before we moved back to California.
When we got married their two daughters were the flower girls in our wedding!
I had always hoped I would get the opportunity to return to Japan someday and attend the wedding of their daughters. For so many reasons.
There is no greater privelege than to share in the tradition, customs & special ceremony of friends from another country and culture, especially in the intimate way that we were able to.
We were treated like family. I feel like we are family. I will cherish these memories forever. It was one of the highlights of my life!
We arrived in Kyushu (southern most Japanese island) early in the morning after more than 24 hours of travel. We walked from the train station directly to the hotel where everyone was getting dressed. We quickly changed from our travel clothes into our wedding clothes at the traditional hotel.
In the lobby of the hotel we all posed with the bride & her family before heading up the mountain to the Buddhist temple where the ceremony was to be held. Her father was joining her at the temple.
The groom's father is a Buddhist priest and they were getting married at his temple in a traditional Buddhist ceremony.
Very few Japanese have religious ceremonies now-a-days so this was a rare opportunity even for Japanese people. It is actually considered incredibly old fashioned and boring and they could not believe we actually wanted to travel as far as we did to attend. The family lives on the main island of Honshu in Kyoto, 600 miles away.
Here is the bride and her younger sister in the van ready to depart for the temple. My son and I rode up with the bride, her mother & her sister in the van. The father of the bride met us at the temple.
Ascending the mountain from the road.
The wedding photographers were at the ready, awaiting her arrival. Her mother escorts her up the last part of the mountain to the temple.
She is wearing traditional wedding Kimono. Her sister and I followed them up the pathway. I was trying to hide so I wouldn't ruin the traditional photos. They wanted us in the photos because we were part of the scene. And there is still some novelty in having someone from so far away attend a wedding.
This is my faux pas photo. Notice my bare feet?? After living in Japan 2.5+ years, and visiting two times since, I know better!
So I arrived at the temple door and had to remove my shoes. I cringed inside. But I knew my dear friends would forgive me. So, I held my head high and did my best to be respectful and enjoy myself at the same time.
Then we high tailed it back to the train station to catch the Nozomi high speed train straight to Kyoto.
And we caught a few ZZZZZZZZss so we could wake up in the morning and do it all again the very next day with the bride's friends and family Kyoto-style!