Tuesday, November 18, 2008

when the japanese and german wed

I had my first wedding invitation last month at a Presbyterian church. The bride was German, the bridegroom being Japanese. I addressed them by their nationality because I did not know them before the wedding.

You see, I was invited to play at their wedding. It was through a mutual friend who was the groom's English teacher. Better still, Pamela had only met the bride a few times before, but because the couple did not know many Christian friends but wanted a church wedding nevertheless, they approached the only Christian they knew - my friend who teaches English at this church.

Apparently Japanese pastors (some of them, not the AOG ones, as far as I know!) allow wedding ceremonies to be held at their churches as a way to evangelise to the Japanese. Knowing how trendy it is to have a Western-style, whatmore with a REAL church setting, wedding, the Japanese have erected buildings which look very much like churches from the outside, but is only a facade for the occasion.

I remember when I first arrived in Niigata, I was surprised to see some church buildings near where I stayed. They looked really beautiful, with a cross at the roof and Romanesque architecture all around. They were so ornately decorated, with gardens at the side and even chapels in the interior that they looked better than normal churches!

I even found out that even at hotels and probably at more upscale weddings, they actually hire Caucasians to dress up the part of the "pastor" to "bless" them at the "ceremony". Such is their fascination for the white fairytale wedding that everything is replicated right down to the gestures and rituals involved, but alas, I wonder if they understood the sanctity and meaning of a Christian wedding.

Nevertheless, I was not there to judge, but to be part of the union of this couple whom I've only had the opportunity to meet just minutes before the ceremony. I must say, it was rather solemn and I wondered if I had attended a funeral instead this was truly a wedding. Then I remembered, both the Japanese and the German are not known for being the most boisterous of nationalities. Maybe that's why these 2 countries made good partners for the Axis Alliance in World War 2.

The only people smiling were the other foreigners, namely Pamela and her American friend. I wanted to flash a smile too, but everyone just looked so serious! Right from when the bride walked in with her father to when the couple were at the altar being blessed by the (real) pastor, from the songs to the message, from the time they walked out of the church and even during the photography session. I wished I had brought my camera to capture the moment.

I was delighted they enjoyed my playing. Not surprising, because the other pianist who played the hymns did it so sombre. I'm no expert in saying how hymns should be played, but I've heard hymns played so beautifully that people just want to sing it over and over again.

Still, it was a good first experience, albeit a rather unusual church wedding. It didn't last very long, sticking to the order of things as stated in the programme book. Immediately after the photography session, they couple was whisked off together with their family members and friends to the reception somewhere near the church.

Few weeks later, I got this from Pamela, a little token of appreciation from the couple. How sweet, literally! I was really delighted as I've never really tasted German candy before, and besides, it even had a Ferrero Raffaelo in it that I've not eaten in years. I'm gonna try to indulge in them slowly so that I can make it last till the new year!

lust auf genuss = desire on enjoyment

*Pictures of the building were taken in Nagaoka 2 years ago at a fireworks festival, as an illustration of how a typical "church wedding building" looks like.

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