David Chart's Japan Diary

September 21st 2005

Last week, I mentioned that my legs were still sore after being bitten by lots of midges at Atago Shrine. Shortly after I wrote that, my left leg decided to swell up like a balloon. According to Yuriko, it looked like an elephant's leg. Or maybe a pie. Or a very full Chinese dumpling. The image depended a great deal on her mood at the time.

It started swelling in the evening, and seemed to have gone down a bit by the following morning. However, it was very swollen and somewhat painful on Wednesday evening, so, with strong urging from Yuriko, I decided to go to the doctor.

The doctor's reaction was encouraging. "Oh, that's really swollen. That's a reaction to insect bites." That might sound obvious, but at least it reassured me that I wasn't wasting his time, and it was what I thought it was. He prescribed an injection, and some steroid cream. The injection was 20ml, which is the largest amount I can remember having. It took a while to go in, and my arm felt quite strange while it was; it felt full, which is probably quite accurate, really.

Getting to and from the doctor wasn't much fun, as I had to walk a bit and that was a little difficult. The fact that I also had to meet a student at the station that day meant I was out and about quite a lot, which would not have been my ideal plan for the day. Anyway, it started going down from that point on, and today it's very nearly back to normal; I was able to wear trainers to go out yesterday, which was a relief because the weather wasn't really suitable for sandals any more.

But now I'm getting a bit ahead of myself. Up to Saturday, last week was a working week interrupted by having to go to the doctor, so there isn't a lot else to report. The last few days, however, have been a bit more interesting.

Kanda Myoujin The main hall at Kanda Myouin. Weddings happen inside. You can see a Miko (shrine attendant) running across the precincts in the middle distance (in white and red).

On Sunday morning, I went to a Wedding Seminar at Kanda Myoujin, the shrine dedicated to the god of relationships. The seminar was extremely interesting, as they staged a mock Shinto wedding, with a couple of the shrine staff playing the bride and groom, with running commentary and explanations of the meaning of all the stages. After, we got to see how the receptions are set up when they do them there. You can do the whole package at the shrine, without leaving the grounds, and I gather that it's one of the main centres for Shinto weddings in Tokyo.

I'm reluctant to say too much about the details of a Shinto wedding now; I'll have a much more personally significant one to describe later. It is, however, very different from a Christian wedding, or even a Western secular wedding, as they tend to borrow their structure from the Christian one. I'll just mention one notable difference, at least at Kanda Myoujin: The bride and groom enter the shrine together, and they lead the guests. It should be very interesting for everyone.

Anyway, I had a somewhat ambivalent reaction to Kanda Myoujin. There was nothing really wrong with it, and it would be a nice setting for a wedding in many ways, but still, it didn't desperately appeal to me; the environment at Atago Shrine was a lot nicer (if you ignore the midges). On the other hand, the actual wedding would take place in a much nicer structure at Kanda Myoujin.

Asahi Super Dry Hall The Asahi Super Dry Hall. What is that thing supposed to be?

Yuriko couldn't go with me to the seminar, because she had a video art show. This was the fourth in a series; I went to the third one last year. The showing was sponsored by Asahi Beer, so it was held in Asahi Super Dry Hall, a rather famous building. Inside is just as interesting as the outside; the toilets are almost works of modern art themselves.

The video art on display appealed to me rather more this time. One piece, in particular, called 'Secret Strike' left quite an impression. The artist was collaborating with a bank, and got the staff to freeze in place while doing their job. This was then filmed. The camera spent about ten minutes travelling round the building, and it was really quite eerie. The rest of the world was moving, but these people were all completely still. That, I thought, was a good concept, something that could only be done in video, and which had a substantial impact. Just what modern art should be, but rarely is.

Monday was a national holiday, so Yuriko had the day off. That meant that we could go to Kanda Myoujin together, and make a joint decision. We decided to pop into Yushima Tenjin afterwards, to see what that was like. One of the priests explained the format of the wedding ceremony there, and, as a result, we've decided that that's where we'll have it. The environment of the shrine is good, the setting for the ceremony is nice, and it's not quite as loud and bright red as Kanda Myoujin. Plus, it's the shrine I visited to give thanks for passing the JLPT.

The priest said that quite a lot of international couples have Shinto weddings, which Yuriko found a bit surprising. I think it's to be expected. If an international couple are getting married in Japan, it is extremely likely that the foreign half has an interest in Japanese culture. That would incline them to wanting a very Japanese wedding, and thus a Shinto one. So I'd expect a slightly higher proportion.

After visiting the shrines, we went to look at reception places. Yuriko fell in love with the second place we visited almost immediately, because it has a superb garden. The rooms for receptions are nice, too.

So, we decided to book. The date we've picked is both a Sunday and the sort of day that's luckiest for weddings according to Japanese fortune telling, so it's likely to fill up quickly. Making a reservation now, more than a year in advance, means that we have a reception room with an enormous window overlooking the garden. Having booked the reception site, we still had to book the shrine. I did that yesterday, going back to Yushima Tenjin and filling in the forms.

Now we don't need to do anything at all for a few months, but the essentials are set. We're already both looking forward to it. I'm being deliberately a bit light on details, so that my guests have more to look forward to. No doubt I will write a full account for the diary after the event.

Yesterday morning was much more prosaic. The hot water boiler in our flat gave out a couple of weeks ago, and the company gave us a rental one as a temporary measure. Yesterday, they came and fitted the new one. The new one is great, and if it lasts as long as the previous one (which was about fifteen years old when it died), I'll be happy.

I think that's about it for this week. It's certainly quite enough.