Why is it The Virgin Road?

I’m thinking I need to go back and make a glossary of all the wedding vocabulary used on this site. Some queries recently about why the blog is called “On The Virgin Road”. This is what they call the wedding aisle in Japanese-English. Pronounced “baa-jin roh-do”. I am not fully confident that many brides even know what it means. It’s all part of the fantasy though so why not let them call it what they wish?


My first Troller

Welcome to Jebediah, a new reader with a range of fascinating comments. I suspect he too is a man of the cloth..

Blinded Again by the Whiteness & The Tears

Long break from wedding work as was traveling again but back into it this last weekend in a big way. Nothing too exciting til Sunday morning when I went to a new venue in Omotesando, an area filled with expensive restaurants and wedding banquet halls. Even for Omotesando this place was ridiculous. Four story, white brick building with bright white interior. Luxury restaurant, private rooms and a side building that had the “church”.

The “church” was an appalling space; low mirrored ceiling, glass floor with flowers encased inside, white leather seating and a huge pillar right in the middle of the left-side “pews”. How this room was designed and then decorated I have no idea but it ranks among the more revolting and gaudy wedding venues I’ve been to in my time as a pastor.  But there are people who like this kind of thing of course and am sure the bride and groom paid handsomely to reserve the venue.

The rehearsal went well but as the wedding started and I entered with the groom I realized there were two photographers AND a video guy up on the stage, along with the two singers, cellist, violinist, keyboardist and me. Jusssssst a bit crowded and the cameramen and video guy made it worse by constantly moving around, bumping into things and generally being very disruptive. This did not seem to make any impression on the bride as she started crying during her slow entrance and didn’t stop for the entire 25-minute wedding. And this wasn’t the sniffles, it was the full water works. You wonder if the happy couple will watch their wedding video one day and get overcome with emotion or just be hypnotized by all the whiteness?

As always, I try to stay professional and just do my job. This blog is my space to vent or ponder about my chosen profession. I can only hope that even with the declining population, Tokyo will continue to have a thriving wedding market. My kids college tuition will have to be paid somehow.

International Youth and Disney Songs

After a long two month return to the motherland I returned to Japan with the family and headed straight out to do some weddings today. I felt a bit out of practice but a couple of reads of my script and a quick review with the organist and I was right back in the game. The first couple at the K Hotel were very sweet; they live in Shanghai and came back just for their wedding today (during Chinese New Year week in China). We chatted before the ceremony about their life in Shanghai and my thoughts on life in Tokyo versus America. The difference in manner between couples who have lived abroad and those who have one trip to Hawaii as their overseas experience..well, it was just so refreshing. Informed, curious and multilingual, this young bride and groom were very impressive. Is there hope for young Japanese folks amid all the media and gaijin-resident pessimism?

All the above made the afternoon wedding at the elite R club in Ebisu such a contrast. Very smiley couple but nervous and a bit in awe of my mid-level Japanese..they asked for a foreign pastor, did they think the ceremony would be in English? What did the wedding company tell them..? And the music selections for this wedding..well, Disney for the Bride’s entry, Disney for the B&G’s triumphant exit, then “A Whole New World” (the Aladdin song)  at volume “these go to 11” for the “flower shower”.

I’ve lived most of my adult life here and still find the Disney thing a mystery. How can anyone really think it’s “romantic”? Why don’t I get it? These people who pay me so much to work their wedding, would they be horrified if they knew my thoughts on their preferences? I would say about 75% of the venues I do weddings at now play Disney songs in one form or another. It’s still better than Celine Dion or Enya, but not by much. I guess because of the long break I was more aware of it than usual. But my god, I truly despise Disney tunes.

We all have moments in our work lives when it’s hard to continue, but we DO continue. I can only try and be the best wedding pastor I can be as the couples deserve no less. And to get the Disney out of my head I just have to crank up some B.B. King on the way home.

“You Will Have Eternal Life..” or, How Did I Become An Official “Pastor”?

I was a green 24-year old, been in Japan about a year and a half or so. ‘Teaching’ English at one of the chain-schools was not for me, I spent almost every night drunk and every morning doing lessons hungover. Anyone reading this blog is familiar with the type. I was looking for something different and also for a way to study Japanese full time. Randomly, I met ‘Austin Powers’, an English-man wedding pastor. He informed me it was the easiest gig in the country and would leave me free to go to school during the week..

Skip ahead a month or two. I was now a contracted employee of  ‘ABC Music’, an events company with an office way out on the Chuo Line. They said I was a bit young to be a pastor but they were desperate. A few rehearsals, a gown fitting, some video viewing of famous pastors..it all went smoothly. One final thing to resolve and then I would be on my way. I needed a license..

The wedding industry in Japan is an odd one. Because Japanese law states you are married from the moment you sign the papers at the city office, all wedding ceremonies are merely performance. There is no “Justice of the Peace” as in the US who has legal power to marry couples. This would seem to pave the way for anyone and everyone to perform at weddings, yet there has always been controversy. Some Japanese Christian churches find it odd but generally harmless to have a Christian themed wedding at a hotel or restaurant. Unfortunately, some of the Western missionaries were a bit more vocal about their objections.

There is a long-term missionary in Japan, let’s call him ‘Benny Koseph’. He’s been here since after the war and at the time I met him must have been already in his late-70s. At some point, Benny got in a huff about the popularity of Christian themed weddings. Whether this was because he found it blasphemous or because he was not getting a cut of the rather hefty profits, I do not know. But he’s a well known figure in Japan and had some influence here and there..all of a sudden guys working in the industry had to get a ‘license’ from him in order to work.

ABC Music sent me to his house way out in Nerima-Ku for the ‘interview’.  This was a long time ago but I can never forget walking into his living room, sitting down and looking up at a gigantic portrait of Jesus, the Mel Gibson “Passion of the Christ” version. I mean, this was a really bloody, garish painting, just terribly distracting and disturbing. I have no idea whether it was deliberate or not, put there to make people quake with fear.

Benny himself was fairly nice old guy and just asked me about my background as a Christian and what sort of charity work I had done.  I made up some very convincing BS which he bought completely. Then I had to read out the wedding script that ABC had provided me. Benny listened, gave me some pointers, then said it was all fine. He tried to sell me a copy of his book on Christians in Japan (I declined politely), then I forked over his ‘fee’. To be honest, I really have no recall of how much that was..I’m guessing it was about 20,000 yen (roughly US$200). As I departed he leaned out the door and said “Don’t forget: You Will Have Eternal Life!”

And that was it. I got my license (still on my shelf) and was on my way to being an “officially sanctioned” wedding pastor. To this day I have zero idea why the wedding companies made this deal with Benny but I’m guessing they wanted to avoid any possible ruckus with the churches here. Easier to spread the drachma a bit and keep everyone happy I would guess.

My Eyes, My eyes! It’s blinding me!

Three weddings this morning at a hotel in central Tokyo. All was well till the third wedding when I met the bride and groom..let me preface this by saying I am almost completely immune to the more “gaudy” bits of Japanese weddings. The “gorgeous” chandeliers, chapel halls, and outfits usually don’t sway me. The couple today though..

The bride had the usual white dress but with a long veil, covered in sparkly sequins. It was hideous and very distracting. The groom was even worse, a full white tuxedo with white shoes and spangly “diamond” sequins all over his coat. Fashion taste is always relative so as long as he’s happy wearing that who am I to comment, really? Unfortunately, the lighting at the venue resulted in little beams of light being reflected off this guy’s jacket and the woman’s veil.. It was almost impossible for me to see anything else; imagine trying to read a speech for 30 mins while staring into a disco ball. Pro that I am, I made it through with no mistakes and got a hearty “Thank you so much!” in English from the Spangle Twins.

I still can’t fathom though how any man in his right mind would wear a white tuxedo covered in fake white diamonds..throw in the Chevy Chase “Vacation” white shoes and I tell you, it was quite the outfit. But what do they care, they’re off to Switzerland for their honeymoon. And I’ll grab a tasty yakitori and bottle of Sapporo on the way home. Life is good.

Sleeping at the altar..

Whew! October is finally done, 22 weddings total in 8 different venues. That combined with some new customers at the main job..well, it’s been an exhausting month for sure. I was at one of the usual venues last Sunday and it took every bit of energy to stand up straight behind the podium. Luckily, that place has an extra loud organ and uses three singers so the volume of the first hymn woke me up. The carrot-top bride caught my eye as well. “Orange” does not do justice to how incredibly bright this woman’s hair was, must have used Astro-Dye at the beauty salon to get that color..

November is much less busy with about 10 on the schedule. I’m hoping to sneak away one weekend with the family for a little R&R somewhere by the sea. All preaching and no play makes Jack go a bit loco!