Friday, June 25, 2010

Tokyo Wedding: 1. A Chapel or a Shrine?

Destination wedding is always a popular choice.  We would picture a chapel on the beach,  but did you know that Tokyo is on the rise?

I have clients who are a  couple from Hong Kong and are going to get married this autumn in Tokyo.  Both of them are Hong Kong Chinese living in Hong Kong.  Why Tokyo? Simply for the love of the city!  That is what a destination wedding is all about:  making a lifetime vow in a place you have a passion for.

Rather than choosing a packaged hotel wedding, the couple preferred to select venues on their own.  So we went out together on a venue hunting throughout the city, and it was quite an interesting experience with a lot of tips for people thinking about a destination wedding in Japan.

In Japan people usually have a wedding ceremony in a Shinto (Japanese indigenous religion) shrine,  a church or a hotel chapel, regardless of your religion.  It is followed by a big dinner in a hotel banquet room or a restaurant.

Churches and shrines are holy places for people to pray and worship gods, right?  Yes, it is true, but many of them are making good business by offering packaged wedding ceremonies.  Especially with churches, we found two distinct categories:  authentic churches and commercial chapels.  Authentic churches are for Christians.  Commercial chapels are open to anyone, though they do have real priests and choir.   They give pretty-looking weddings, but they also have strict rules not for religious reasons but to maintain their  package price high.  For example, you cannot bring in your own wedding dress but have to rent one at their associated rental dress shop.  You cannot ask your make-up artist friend to do you a make-up on the special day but have to hire the chapel's designated artist who may have a completely different sense of colors from yours.  Some chapels allow you to bring your own dress, but usually for a surcharge.  I could understand a corkage fee for wine bottles because it at least requires the labor of opening them, but for a dress?  What have you done for me lately?

Other items that you are obliged to take are photographers and florists.  If you look at it from a different angle, however, the systematized package makes it much easier for you, especially if you live overseas and don't have anyone here to assit you through to the wedding.

Having seen commercial chapels and hotels, my clients came to realize they wanted to have more of  Japanese touch.  They come a long way to get married in Tokyo, and their guests, too, would expect to see something unique.  So we shifted our focus on shrines. 

Surprisingly, most Japanese shrines accept non-Japanese couples.  Among the shrines I called, only Meiji Jingu, the biggest shrine in Tokyo, said no.  Meiji Jingu enshrines the Emperor and Empress Meiji, and to be married there, either of the couple has to be a Japanese national.

You can have a wedding ceremony in a shrine, provided that everything is conducted in Japanese language and no translation is given.  Not just the ceremony itself, but signing the contract, making payment, discussing the  procedure etc. are all done in Japanese.  So unless you speak the language a good interpreter is indispensable. 

Like chapels, shrines offer packages (normally the wedding section is in an annex building and is technically run by a separate company.)   A good ceremony package would come with kimono costumes for the bride and groom, a wig for the bride and a set of photos.  You may want to have more number of photos and an upgrade of costumes for surcharge.  Here again you cannot bring your own costume, but who would bring wedding kimono from overseas?  So the shrine package seems easier to rationalize for foreigner couples.     

The couple decided to have a wedding ceremony in a small, time-honored and beautiful shrine in the center of  Tokyo, and a banquet at a French restaurant which is also a beautiful Western architecture.   A picturesque combination of East and West. 
(to be continued)

Friday, June 11, 2010

How about a Hokusai in your bedroom?

Last week I visited a renowned antique gallery in Nihonbashi when I had a chance to talk to the owner.  The gallery handles beautiful Chinese antique ceramics, but the owner is also known for holding the biggest collection of Hokusai Manga (cartoon).  Looking keenly at framed Hokusai's prints hung on the wall, I was impressed by the fine print which does not look over 100 years old.  The owner suggested that I visit an exhibition that he curated and loaned art works for.

So today I went to Komazawa Daigaku, where I usually never go.  It is three stations away from Shibuya. The original prints by Hokusai are displayed in a modern Japanese model home and in an annex gallery.  The prints in black and white, some tinted with light colors, retain ever-lasting modernity and fit perfectly in the chic contemporary bedroom. What is more surprising is that they are affordable.  Really.  A small (about the size of a postcard) print can be less expensive than an i-Phone.

Ancient great works astonish us with beauty that seems going ahead of the time.  I happened to have visited Lucie Rie's retrospective exhibition yesterday and felt the same way.  Though Lucie's works are not yet as old as Hokusai's, how could you stay so creative and come up with perfectly stream-lined, beautifully colored ceramics until you are over 80?  True beauty never ages.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Summer 2010: Art and Nature vs Art and Cities

In the summer of 2010 there are two art festivals to note in Japan.

The first one is Setouchi International Art Festival from July 19.  It will be held on the seven islands of the Setouchi Inland Sea and Takamatsu City (Kagawa Prefecture in the Shikoku region).  It is a collaboration projects of artists and local residents.  Renowned Japanese and international artist will participate to help revitalize the local communities of the islands that have rich heritage and beautiful natural environment.

The most well-known of the islands is Naoshima, which is known as an island of art.  Chichu Museum, a contemporary art museum displays permanent collections of works of Claude Monet, James Turrell and Walter de Maria.   The white building half-buried underground (that's where the name chichu "in the ground" comes from) was designed by a renowned architect Tadao Ando.  The island also has Benesse House, which is a combination of design hotel and another contemporary art museum.  The view of the ocean and art installations in the garden will make an inspiring stay. 

While the event in Setouchi shows art and nature,  the other one focuses more on art and cities. Aichi Triennale 2010 from August 21 will be held in Nagoya City Art Museum and other venues in Aichi Prefecture.  It has international contemporary exhibition, dance, music and theater performances. 

The two festivals will continue through to October 31.  It will be interesting to see the contrast.