What is a Shinto Wedding?
A Shinto wedding is a traditional Japanese wedding in Japan. As Christians pledge their love for each other at churches in front of Christ, Japanese people pledge their love at shrines in front of gods called Yaoyorozu. The bride and groom wear a formal outfit and follow the steps to pledge their love for each other.
The Origin of Shinto Weddings
It’s said that this style of wedding started in the Muromachi period, which was more than 500 years ago, people would have this ceremony in a zashiki (sitting room) which had an alcove. There was scrolls having on the wall with the god’s names written on them. The names were written and some offerings were presented to the gods. The couple pledged their love by drinking sacred sake. However, this style changed during the Meiji period. Emperor Meiji instructed his son and late Emperor Taisho, to have his wedding in front of the palace where the deity Amaterasu Oomikami (Sun Goddess) is enshrined. After this ceremony happened, this became the common practice, and the ceremonies nowadays are performed the same way.
The Rituals (Steps to Pledge Love)
Couples follow the Shinto rituals when getting married at a shrine. The steps following in order, sanshin, the bride and groom walk to the shrine from the waiting room, they both must be presentable in from of the gods. Sometimes they walk in a line with the Shinto priests and the shrine maiden carries a red umbrella. Haiden chakuza, people sit at the shrine. The bride and groom sit the closest to the god, and the bride sits on the left and the groom sits the right, from the god’s side.
Photo Credit: inage-sengenjinja.or.jp
Shubatsu, being purified is one of the most important things for Japanese gods, so the Shinto priest purifies the couple of impurities before the ceremony. According to the gods, people unconsciously commit sins in daily life. Saishu ichirei, is the beginning of the ceremony. All people at the ceremony bow to the gods. Kensen, the Shinto priest gives the couple an offering, that offering is presented to the gods so the new couple is welcomed.
Norito soujo, the Shinto priest reads the “Norito” aloud to the god. Norito is a document which tells the bride and groom they will be married, it is promised that they will be happy for a lifetime. Sankon no gi, the bride and groom drink sacred sake from same glass to exchange vows. The bride drinks first and then groom. It’s believed that the sacred sake has power from the gods, and people can be blessed by the gods just from drinking it.
Photo Credit: mikawa-jinjya.com
Seishi soujo, the bride or groom (or sometimes both of them) takes an oath in front of the gods. Mikomai no houten, the shine maidens dance to please the gods and make him bless the couple and their families. Tamagushi hairei, the bride and groom dedicate a “Tamagushi” or a branch of Japanese Cleyera decorated with cotton thread and Shide which is a zigzag-shaped paper streamer. Tamagushi is a gift that expresses the sincerity from the people to the deity. Then they bow twice, clap their hands twice, and bow once again to express their gratitude to the god.
Shinzoku sakazsuki no gi, each family member also drinks the sacred sake to bond create a strong bond between families. In the past people would drink from the same glass, but now each person has their own glass and everyone drinks the sake at the same time.
Tessen, the Shinto priest takes out the offerings they dedicated at the beginning of the ceremony. These offerings will be treasured because now the couple is believed to a have sacred power. Saishu ippai, at the end all the people at the ceremony bow to the god.
The “shiromuku” & “irouchikake” is the most traditional kimono for women. The shiromuku is an all-white kimono. In Japan, white is believed to represent sacred and pureness. At the after party, the bride changes into a colorful kimono called “irouchikake”. The “montsuki haori hakama” is the most traditional kimono for men. The family crest in on the “haori” which is a thin over coat. She wears white socks and “geta”, geta are traditional shoes, they are a mixture of clogs and flip flops.
Shrines for a Shinto Wedding
Meiji Jingu Shrine
There are various plans for couples to choose from if they wish to have a ceremony at Meiji Jingu Shrine. The shrine is a popular spots for weddings and there can be about 15 weddings per weekend.
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Meiji Jingu Shrine
Address: 1-1 Yoyogi-Kamizonocho, Shibuya Ward, Tokyo
5 minute walk from Harajuku Station
5 minute walk from Sangubashi Station
Website: Meiji Jingu
Tsuruoka Hachimangu Shrine
They use a unique style called “maiden shiki” for their Shinto weddings. This style means some parts of the ceremony are semi-public; therefore people at the shrine can celebrate with the couple about to be married. This can be an unforgettable memory for tourist who haven’t studied Shintoism.
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Tsuruoka Hachimangu Shrine
Address: 2-1-31 Yukinoshita, Kamakura City, Kanagawa Prefecture
Access: 14 minute walk from Kamakura Station
Website: Tsuruoka Hachimangu (Japanese)
The Kamigamo Shrine has a few unique services. At this shrine, the bride and groom wear a different types of traditional clothing, not montsuki haori hakama and shiromuku. The bride wears a “Sokutai,” and the groom wears a “Junihitoe”, people wore these types of clothing in Heian period. Therefore, if you want to experience a different kind of wedding, Kamigamo Shrine might be a good choice.
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Address: 339 Kamigamohonzan, Kita Ward, Kyoto City, Kyoto Prefecture
Access: 15 minute bus or car ride from Kita Oji Station
Website: Kamigamo Shrine (Japanese)