Poor white dress shirt planning.  That’s what it came down to.  The occasion called for a black suit, white dress shirt, and white(ish) tie and I was ready.  I traveled with not one but TWO white dress shirts (I’m not an idiot after all).  Of course, it didn’t dawn on me until this morning that I happened to wear my back-up dress shirt on the flight over (Scratch that previous comment), so I had only the one.  The one that fit comfortably enough until you fastened the top button.  As a result, I wasn’t so much wearing a tie as I was sporting a tourniquet, intermittently loosening my collar throughout the day to relieve the pressure and restore blood flow to my brain.  But far be it for me to complain.  This was going to be my first Japanese wedding and I wasn’t about to make it about me.  Until, of course, the reception.

For her part, Akemi picked up a smashing outfit for her sister’s wedding.  Unfortunately, she learned too late that tradition forbade her from exposing her shoulders so she got to wear the new dress for all of the twenty minutes it took us to go from our hotel to the Hotel New Otani -where she changed into a much more modest kimono.

November 11, 2013: Tokyo Day #6!  My Big Fat Japanese Wedding!  Well, Not “mine”, But Darn Close.
So, kimono it is!
November 11, 2013: Tokyo Day #6!  My Big Fat Japanese Wedding!  Well, Not “mine”, But Darn Close.
I’m rarin’ to go.

At the New Otani, I killed about an hour – and a chocolate parfait – cooling my heels while Akemi got her hair done and got packed into her kimono which is, apparently, a to-do.

November 11, 2013: Tokyo Day #6!  My Big Fat Japanese Wedding!  Well, Not “mine”, But Darn Close.
It’s a two-woman job.

By the time she was done, Akemi could barely breathe.  And using the bathroom would be out of the question for the next seven hours so drinking was a no-no.  But she did look great!

November 11, 2013: Tokyo Day #6!  My Big Fat Japanese Wedding!  Well, Not “mine”, But Darn Close.
Akemi and her mom, dressed for the occasion.

We met up and were shuttled into a room where “some” of the photographs were being taken.  In fact, this room turned out to be the first of many, many photography rooms.

November 11, 2013: Tokyo Day #6!  My Big Fat Japanese Wedding!  Well, Not “mine”, But Darn Close.
The groom and bride in their traditional Japanese wedding wear.
November 11, 2013: Tokyo Day #6!  My Big Fat Japanese Wedding!  Well, Not “mine”, But Darn Close.
Okay, just a sip.  Watch the kimono!
November 11, 2013: Tokyo Day #6!  My Big Fat Japanese Wedding!  Well, Not “mine”, But Darn Close.
Akemi’s father is always genki
November 11, 2013: Tokyo Day #6!  My Big Fat Japanese Wedding!  Well, Not “mine”, But Darn Close.
Akemi’s brother = also genki.
November 11, 2013: Tokyo Day #6!  My Big Fat Japanese Wedding!  Well, Not “mine”, But Darn Close.
Kimono fashion
November 11, 2013: Tokyo Day #6!  My Big Fat Japanese Wedding!  Well, Not “mine”, But Darn Close.
Turns out the woman on the left is a huge Stargate fan – while the woman in the right is a huge fan of my grilled cheese sandwich video.

We were ushered out of the room and into the hallway to meet a dignitary and the wedding guest of honor: Genshitsu (Soshitsu XV), Grand Master XV, President of the Urasenke Tankokai Federation, President of the Junior College of the Urasenke Way of Tea at the Tianjin University of Commerce, UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador, and President of the United Nations Association of Japan.  At 90!  Other attendees gathered giddily around him as if he was a rock star.  When we were introduced, I felt like I was meeting the Stan Lee of Chado, the Way of Tea.  Like Stan the Man who I met way back at the upfronts in Pasadena when SG-1 was celebrating its 200th episode, the Grand Master exuded warmth and charisma, giving me a surprisingly firm handshake and happily congratulating me – in Stan’s case, for the show’s 200th anniversary; in this case, for presumably dating the bride-to-be’s sister.

We were ushered back into our room and, following a short wait, a woman entered and delivered detailed instructions on the upcoming ceremony – which, according to Akemi, broke down as follows: “Bow twice, poom poom (clap) twice, bow again.”

“When?”I asked her.  “Where?  Who?”

She offered a shrug by way of response and then motioned me toward the other family members heading out the door single file.  I joined the procession, following them down the hall to an antechamber where water was poured over our hands after which we were offered a paper towel with which to dry them.  Then, it was into the adjoining room.

The bride and groom’s closest family members (and yours truly) were seated on opposite sides of a stage.  Musicians played a flute and another instrument that wasn’t.  The Shinto equivalent of the minister/priest/justice of the peace presided.  He intoned.  The music played.  The bride and groom stepped up and bowed twice, clapped twice, and bowed once again.  We all did the same although I was, admittedly, taken off guard and missed the first bow.  I hope no one noticed.  I sat with my hands in my lap until Akemi motioned to everyone else seated with their hands on their knees, so I did the same – except not exactly, as Akemi was forced to demonstrate the proper technique.  I followed suit, forming my hands into fists and laying them palm down on my knees.  But that wasn’t right either.  Again, Akemi had to show me and, finally, I got it, tucking my thumbs under my closed fingers.  It took me so long to get this part down that I kept my thumbs tucked securely in my fists resting palm down on my knees long after everyone else on stage had relaxed.

November 11, 2013: Tokyo Day #6!  My Big Fat Japanese Wedding!  Well, Not “mine”, But Darn Close.

November 11, 2013: Tokyo Day #6!  My Big Fat Japanese Wedding!  Well, Not “mine”, But Darn Close.

November 11, 2013: Tokyo Day #6!  My Big Fat Japanese Wedding!  Well, Not “mine”, But Darn Close.

The ceremony ended.  The bride and groom left.  And then everyone introduced themselves.  One by one, they went through the groom’s family, every family member rising to let the room know a little about themselves and their relation to Hiroshi-san.  My mind scrambled to come up with something I could say by way of an introduction.  In Japanese.  I was thinking something along the lines of: “Konnichi wa. Joe desu. Canada kara kimashita.  Anime dai suki!” = “Hello.  I’m Joe. I came from Canada.  I love anime!”.  In the end, Akemi’s father wound up making the introductions for the bride’s side of the family and all that was required of me was a stand and bow that I accomplished without incident – but, on the other hand, without demonstrating any real aptitude either.

From there, it was off the banquet hall where we handed over our gift envelope and signed our names.   In hiragana.  With a calligraphy pen. I’d practiced last night.  But, evidently, not enough…

November 11, 2013: Tokyo Day #6!  My Big Fat Japanese Wedding!  Well, Not “mine”, But Darn Close.
My “ro” needs work.

Then, it was into the banquet hall for the reception.

November 11, 2013: Tokyo Day #6!  My Big Fat Japanese Wedding!  Well, Not “mine”, But Darn Close.
400 of the newlyweds’ closest friends and family.

But first, some speeches.  By a famed news anchor.  By a business partner.  By the Grand Master who extolled the virtues of green tea. And there was even a speech by the chef!  An hour later, it was time to eat.

And, I have to admit, it was the best wedding food I’ve ever had.  A couple of the highlights:

November 11, 2013: Tokyo Day #6!  My Big Fat Japanese Wedding!  Well, Not “mine”, But Darn Close.
Symphony of the Sea: lobster, crab, and caviar.
November 11, 2013: Tokyo Day #6!  My Big Fat Japanese Wedding!  Well, Not “mine”, But Darn Close.
Melon cake with vanilla ice cream and red fruit coulis.

Throughout the reception, the bride underwent a series of transformations, changing outfits every half hour or so, going from the traditional Japanese wedding dress to a kimono to a contemporary wedding dress to a colorful wedding dress to, of course, mecha-robo, and finally to a wild ensemble that could have come from the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory set dec sale.

Unlike every other wedding I’ve been to, there was no dance music – much less any dancing.  Instead, the tunes, a variety ranging from classical to J-Pop, accompanied the meal and various entrances. At one point, believe or not, they actually played the theme to Stargate SG-1. I like to think it was for my benefit – although I seemed to be the only one to recognize it.

Meanwhile, Akemi and I worked the room, meeting friends and relatives, all of whom were exceedingly kind and very interested in taking our picture.  Whenever we approached a table, everyone would stand and bow.  I would bow in response.  They would introduce themselves and say “Dozo yoroshiku” which roughly translates to “Pleased to meet you.”  And I would introduce myself (“Joe desu”) and say “Dozo yoroshiku” – at which point everyone would chuckle goodheartedly.  “Why is everyone laughing at my dozo yoroshiku?”I asked Akemi who could barely contain herself.  “Because,”she said. “You’re so cute.”  I sincerely doubt that was the reason.

November 11, 2013: Tokyo Day #6!  My Big Fat Japanese Wedding!  Well, Not “mine”, But Darn Close.
I meet a Japanese blog-reader: Kato-san.
November 11, 2013: Tokyo Day #6!  My Big Fat Japanese Wedding!  Well, Not “mine”, But Darn Close.
The bride’s kindergarten friends, Akemi, and Haruhiko.

The festivities wrapped up a little before 8:00 p.m. (tomorrow’s a work day after all!) although, by the time the last guest made their way through the “what’s the opposite of a receiving line?”, it was closer to 9:15.

November 11, 2013: Tokyo Day #6!  My Big Fat Japanese Wedding!  Well, Not “mine”, But Darn Close.
The bride and groom.  Harajuku-bound? 

From there, we scurried back upstairs so Akemi could change and we could finally make our way back to our hotel.

I must admit, it was quite a wedding.  Not sure how you top that!

34 thoughts on “November 11, 2013: Tokyo Day #6! My Big Fat Japanese Wedding! Well, not “mine”, but darn close.

  1. That was fascinating, Joe! What a (complex) experience! I must say that Akemi looked smashing in her Kimono, but that little black dress – Wow.

    I don’t know how it tasted, but that food certainly LOOKS better than any wedding reception food that I’ve ever seen. Speaking of which, I’m not going to say there may be a relationship between the extra chocolate parfait and the tourniquet collar, but I’m not going to say there may NOT be, either! 😉

    I thought your hiragana looked pretty good. The big-nosed “3” (is that the “ro”) did look a little off, I guess. I’m sure the wedding party will indulge you any mistakes, I’m sure.

    Thanks to you and Akemi so much for sharing this experience with us. It almost makes us feel like family!

    *waves to Kato-san*

  2. Very cool re-cap! Thanks
    Will Akemi be posting any video of the wedding itself? I’d like to see what one all entails. Thanks for taking time out of your vacation to share so much with your fans!

    Cheers 😛

  3. Fantastic! Thank you for sharing! It sounded like a wonderful wedding and your observations were so descriptive.

    Have fun!

  4. Wow, Joe, I think you did splendidly for someone who has never been to a Japanese wedding before. I doubt that I would have been as able as you.

    Also, looking at everyone’s writing on that image you included, just consider, it could have been much worse. You could have had that name on the far right of the photo. That looks like a really challenging signature.

    Akemi’s dad must be quite the business man with that many people at the wedding. Am I right in my understanding that the Japanese also use these kinds of events to invite their business associates to?

  5. Wow – that was one fancy to-do! You looked great, Joe – tight collar, and all (Mr. Das HATES tight collars and always buys shirts a neck size too big). Akemi looked fantastic! Love the traditional dress (some day I’ll share a picture of my great uncle Kenneth – who lived in Japan for a bit – in his kimono…with his ‘houseboy’… ).

    But the bride? Simply beautiful! What lovely traditional dress!! The various ‘costume changes’ reminds me of a Chinese wedding my mom attended in NY city – the bride wore several dresses throughout, and my mom wasn’t even sure when they actually got married – perhaps when they drank the tea. She said the reception went on for hours, course after course presented to the guests – it was like the 15th course when the lobster came out, and that was about halfway through the thing. And when it came to presenting gifts, said gifts were mostly of gold as each guest approached the bride and draped gold necklaces and other bits of gold around her neck. Quite a show!

    Thank you so much for sharing all this. It looks like a beautiful and elegant wedding, one I’m so glad you could experience and, in turn, share with us. Love Akemi’s little video, too…she’s so adorable! And you are, too, Joey…you are too. 🙂


  6. “I must admit, it was quite a wedding. Not sure how you top that!”

    Oh, I know how you and Akemi could top that… 😉

    Joe that was awesome!! I could probably sit with you a couple of hours and drill you with questions about the wedding. I would want to hear every, single, little, detail. And no way is Akemi wearing that black “little” dress to my wedding! You’re not suppose to upstage the bride. She would have to wear a poncho or something like that. The dress she wore to the wedding was beautiful!! However, I could not last 7 hours without a bathroom break. The event alone would make me so nervous I’d have to go. (I’m thinking catheter here 🙂 ) Did you take the groom out back and threaten him with the “If you ever hurt even a hair on her head, I will come back and hunt you down…” speech? Maybe they are saving it for you! That reception dinner (for 400) looks EXPENSIVE. Holy cow!! What an awesome experience! Thank you for posting all the pictures and your account of it.

  7. Thanks for sharing the wedding with us, Joe! What an amazing event. That last bride and groom photo really was Harajuku-worthy. The transition from traditional dress to over-the-top dress ball is mind-boggling. Yep, my mind is truly boggled.

    Akemi looked gorgeous in both the little black dress and the kimono. And walked very gracefully in her dressy geta.

    You clean up pretty good, too, Joe.

  8. Joecito, you looked mahvelous, dahling! Akemi, as usual, looking gorgeous in whatever she wears. The bride, the whole wedding, the food, wow!

    Went to the rescue today to take over some toys, blankets and towels and to make sure Shoobie was doing ok, but when I got there, I really didn’t want to upset her, so I had the manager give her the toys. She was enjoying her doggie bed, at least. I adopted another little dog, all of 8 lbs and gorgeous. I’m picking her up on Tuesday (she needs a grooming and I need a break – my daughter is in Boston until tomorrow night and I’m here with the baby) and I’ll show you some pics then! I’m still sad about Shoobie, but at least I found another one that really needs a home, so that makes me happy.

  9. … Akemi got her hair done and got packed into her kimono which is, apparently, a to-do.

    from what i hear those things are a pain to do up the correct way.

    that cake looks good.

  10. You were looking SHARP Joe, and Akemi looks fabulous in everything. She was so endearing doing the fast walk in that video clip. Everyone looked beautiful.

    Wow! What a wardrobe change for the bride and groom! I love knowing about other cultures (even though I would not touch a BIT of the food, except the melon cake did look good).

    That is really cool they played the Stargate music.

    From start to finish of the ceremony part, how long does that last? We had a full Mass in our Catholic church. On my knees for the most part in a wedding gown for most of the 60 minutes. It was an extended version of the 45-minute Mass. Our reception was, if you count the party we had after we got kicked out of the reception hall (and I mean with other people) lasted from 7 p.m. until 3:30 a.m. and then up at 6:30 a.m. to have breakfast with our out-of-town guests. It was basically nonstop celebrating from the time of the rehearsal on Friday night at 7 p.m., followed by rehearsal dinner party that didn’t break up until 1 a.m., then prep for the ceremony at 4 p.m. began at 10 a.m., Mass over at 5 p.m., receiving line until 5:15; pictures at the park from 5:15 until it was too dark, reception at 7 p.m., etc. By the time I was on the plane at noon for our honeymoon on Sunday I was sound asleep. After we landed, we were going to have a 2-3 hour drive to get to our destination.

    They probably thought you were adorable because you made an effort to fit into their culture and their traditions. I doubt you’d have the same reaction if you showed up in one of those outfits though. (giggles).

    Come on Joe. Confession is good for the soul. You’re married, aren’t you?

  11. wow that was elaborate and intricate wedding. You looked dashing and Akemi looked beautiful Congrats to the bride and groom.

  12. Akemi, you looked fabulous! Loved seeing the traditional outfits.
    Yes, Joe, you looked rather cool and debonair!
    Would have loved to see you in something traditional as well.
    THANKS for sharing the pictures.

  13. Joe,
    One of my favorite wedding descriptions ever, pictures and all. The bride looked beautiful as did Akemi. Her kimono was gorgeous and the color was perfect for her. And have to agree with Sparrow_Hawk, you do clean up well.

  14. Just got back from Thor 2…and just one word:

    Loki. ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

    And yes, I am smitten. 🙂


  15. Wow, what a do! Akemi looks lovely, as does her sister. Just beautiful.

    My first Japanese neighbor was a former Miss Yokosuka who worked as a professional kimono dresser. She did me and a friend up in full dress kimono one day, just for fun, Fun, uh-huh. There’s more layers than a blooming onion! Kimono are not cut for Western body types at all. That cute walk? That’s because you can’t move your hips and have to turn your toes in to avoid toppling over. Yikes! Breathing? Nah.

    I still have my geta, fancy oves from when I was a kid, and wooden ones. I can walk in the wooden ones easily but don’t want to wear them out, so they’re display items now. I also have mom’s kimono dad had made in the 50s when he was stationed in Iwakuni, packed away. And a couple of used rental wedding kimono… they were supposed to go on the wall, but I moved into a low-ceiling house. If anyone needs to borrow a wedding kimono, I have three or six or so….

  16. My mother spent two years in Japan and speaks some Japanese… She says that your “Dozo Yoroshiku” was fine, and, if anything, your ‘cute Canadian accent’ made them chuckle. (It doesn’t take much sometimes.)
    We were also wondering, is it customary for a long-time girlfriend to use her boyfriend’s last name in Japan? (You both signed “Mallozzi” on the guest registration.)
    That melon cake looked really good!

  17. Wow! What an amazing ceremony, and great experience for you!

    Akemi looked gorgeous in her black dress, and beautiful in the kimono. You looked fabulous! I hope you got plenty of pictures of you and Akemi together.

    And thanks for the description and photos of the wedding. I love the tradition involved – just beautiful!

  18. Wow, quite the event! I do not envy your lack of a rehearsal for all that clapping and proper hands when sitting. There’s little I hate more than attending an event where I don’t know the protocol. I don’t even like going to different Catholic churches just in case something is weird – and mass is pretty formulaic. (It doesn’t help that I don’t actually go to mass often – to the point where in between Easter and Christmas a few years ago the entire call and response changed and I haven’t been the same since.lol)

    Anyway, despite the hand awkwardness, it looks like a fun experience. And that cake looks delicious. Congrats to the bride and groom! She and Akemi were beautiful in their garb. I’m also loving that they played the SG1 theme song – intentional or not!

    Somehow, I missed that you’ve met Stan Lee. Excuse me while I get super jealous!

  19. What a beautiful wedding and so fascinating. You looked very debonair Joe. Which cuff links did you wear? Akemi looked lovely in both her dress and Kimono. Her family is so friendly. I thought you did a great job with your signature. Who were the signatures next to you? Again, the food looks delicious. Thanks for all the pictures and the wedding recap.

  20. Must be great to be that outgoing. Made me nervous and uncomfortable just reading about it.

  21. Wow not sure you can top that wedding! I love the clothes — especially the bride’s final outfit. What fun! I am glad you did nothing that would require her family to have you dismembered and had a good time! 🙂

  22. Joe and Akemi, thanks for sharing their special day with us. Akemi looks great in whatever she wears and you didnt fail to impress either Joe. The bride looks beautiful in that blue dress, very pretty. What a party, 400 people, now that is a fun family. You walk backwards and film pretty good, no accidents. Lovely Akemi in a kimono, I liked her little black dress also. Glad it went well and now you all can kick back and enjoy the rest of the visit, so much more to do,,…Star Bar,,, more chocolate.. Enjoy!! (and share)

  23. Mr M & Akemi. You guys survive the wedding. It’s not that dissimilar from my last few family weddings that I attended (dragged off to). Hope everyone was happy with the ceremony and reception.

    @Das, long hair albinos no longer your thing? By the way Tom Hiddleston (Loki) was in the movie “Warhorse” and he is still in the market. Slinking back to my hole now. Hehe

  24. Wow, wow, wow. I thought you were kidding about the awesome wedding outfits, those are awesome, love the top hat!

    Everybody looks so elegant. Akemi’s parents and siblings are so cool, I love her dad. Kato-San is a hottie too, and a man of taste; is he a SGUer, SGAer or SG1er?

    And the food looks so beautiful. Congratulations to Akemi’s sister and her beautiful family!

  25. I’m so glad events went well. The ladies look beautiful in their kimonos, and the men look dashing in their various garments.

  26. I think it’s safe to say that this is definitely one of my top 10 favorite posts of yours Joe. Perhaps even top 5. One, because you show a great pic of yourself being the big goofball we all know you really are, and two, because you share with us an experience that, it’s safe to say, I’ll never get even the opportunity to partake in. Yeah, there’s a good chance I’ll make it to Japan at some point. It’s on my “must do” list(mainly because of the food, but also largely for the culture, probably 60/40 😉 ), but who knows when that’ll be!

    So, thanks Joe. Awesome post.

    Keep ’em comin’!

    -Mike A.

  27. I must admit, it was quite a wedding. Not sure how you top that!

    Really Joe, no idea at all?
    Have your own!!!


  28. Great recap!!!

    I’ve got lots of questions, though…

    1. I’m assuming that since Akemi was unaware of the bare-shoulders proscription (and because a woman had to come in and tell everyone to bow, bow, clap, clap, bow), this type of über-traditional wedding is not that common. Roughly what percent of weddings in Japan are this type? Are the ones that aren’t more like Canadian/American weddings?

    2. Do the bride and groom have the total say over what type of wedding it will be, or are they beholden to their parents’ wishes? And if the latter, which set of parents has more say? And does that same set of parents pay for the affair, or is the cost split equally between the families? Do the bride and groom pay a share?

    3. Is Akemi’s sister older or younger than her? Is it frowned upon, traditionally, for a younger sibling to be married before an older sibling? Like if a younger one were in a relationship that is headed for marriage, would there be familial pressure to hold off until a single older sibling was married and “settled down” first?

    4. How heavy was the kimono?

    5. Why does Akemi’s family think that her last name is Mallozzi? Granted, after living together 2 years, you became common law spouses, but still…

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