Today I officiated at a special VIP wedding of Tokugawa Yoshinori, a descendent of the family of the shoguns who ruled Japan for centuries until 1867. The years 1603-1867 are known as the Tokugawa Era, or “Tokugawa Jidai” in Japanese, marked by Japan’s almost total isolation from the outside world. Imagine what it’s like for children of the Tokugawa family today going to school and learning about their own family in Social Studies and History. Maybe what they learn in school is quite different from what they learn at home.
Yoshinori is in his 30s and works for some branch of the Mitsubishi Corporation conglomerate. He is not a direct descendent of the last shogun, but rather the son of a nephew’s or a cousin’s line. But his uncle, who was sitting in the front row of the chapel next to his parents was a direct descendent and the current head of the household. I could pick him out immediately because his body shape, face shape and receding hairline made him looked like he stepped right out of a print in a history book. It felt weird to be in the midst of such power, history and wealth. Imagine if you attended a party in Guelph hosted by one of Queen Elizabeth’s sons or grandsons. Not Prince Charles, but one of the other princes. This wedding was a Christian affair because the bride, Miss Wada, is a Christian. That leaves the question of why they were not being married in her own church, but I figured it was so that they could use the hotel’s spacious and elaborate banquet hall.
Every woman in the chapel was wearing a kimono. In usual weddings there are only a couple, or a handful of kimonos, because they are expensive and difficult to wear. It’s kind of a hobby of mine to make wagers with the choir girls before the ceremonies start about how many kimonos there will be and then to count them at some point of the service. I can talk while looking around thinking about other things. It’s risky, though, if I’m thinking about something else while speaking in another language. It’s a perfect way to throw myself off, so I usually save the kimono counting until the guests are filing out of the chapel.
The Tokugawa women today were dressed to the nines. I was wondering what the men would be wearing - hakama with obi and decorative swords? No, they were just in tuxedoes and normal suits. There were a lot of terribly fit looking old people.
The chapel can hold 72 people, but we can squeeze in 82 if we must. But the banquet hall - on the same floor as the chapel and just down a long, carpeted corridor - can seat over a hundred, so there are usually more guests attending the luncheon or dinner party than the wedding ceremony itself. On this occasion some Imperial Family members were attending the dinner party. Not the Emperor and Empress, but some lower level princes. So there was tight security - serious looking guys in dark suits with ear pieces stuck in their ears for listening to each other over closed circuit radio, walking around in a group with pencils and papers looking over everything and inside every cupboard and door, and talking in serious, low voices with high level hotel representatives. I recognized the General Manager, the head of Human Resources, and the head of Restaurant Service - people I know on sight. I didn’t see any Imperial Family members myself. It’s none of my business and I’m not likely to see them anyway. And, they probably would not arrive until just dinner time. And, even if I did see them I wouldn’t recognize them. The only Imperial Family members I would know on sight are the Emperor and Empress and their two sons, Crown Prince Naruhito and Prince Akishino, none of whom are the least likely to attend an event like this wedding.
Before 1867 the Tokugawa family occupied Edo Castle in central Tokyo - had done for 250-years - while the Emperor, or “Mikado,” resided at the Kyoto Imperial Palace, called “Gosho” in Japanese. With the “Meiji Restoration” of 1867 and the beginning of Japan’s modern era the Meiji Emperor took up residence in Edo Castle - the Imperial Palace in central Tokyo - that is visible outside the windows of the chapel on the hotel’s 27th floor - and the Tokugawa family retired to their home territory in Mito City, Ibaraki Prefecture, where many of them still live.