One bright Saturday afternoon in the fresh green of spring, priests led a bride and groom toward a wedding hall at Meiji Jingu, a renowned shrine in Tokyo’s Shibuya Ward.
The Shinto shrine is dedicated to the souls of Emperor Meiji and his wife, Empress Shoken. It was established in 1920 and stands in a 700,000-sq.-meter enclosure planted with 100,000 trees donated by people in Japan and others overseas.
Today, the shrine is a popular site for marriage ceremonies. On busy weekends, it carries out around 15 weddings a day.
Last Saturday, Nao Sasaki, 30, and Jonathan Madrid, 24, walked nervously and silently toward the hall to pray, make their wedding vows and become a family. Madrid works at U.S. Army Camp Zama in Kanagawa Prefecture.
Photographs were not allowed during the ceremony, but the rituals included a norito (prayer recitation) by a priest, drinking nuptial cherry blossom tea together, exchanging rings and pledging wedding vows before kami. This word refers to the Shinto notion of myriad divine spirits, as compared with the monotheist tradition of Christianity and Islam.
“In Shinto, some divinity is found as Kami, or it may be said that there is an unlimited number of Kami,” the shrine’s website says. “You can see Kami in mythology, in nature, and in human beings.”
Smiling newlywed Madrid said: “I felt very happy about the wedding. It was pretty different, but a happy experience.”
“It was actually where my wife and I came on our first date. . . . We didn’t know at the time we would decide to get married and decide to have our ceremony here,” said Madrid. The couple now live at Camp Zama.
Tomohiro Isogai, priest at the shrine, said of his job: “I feel the gravity of leading a once in a lifetime event for the couple. They have made their vows before kami and went though a ceremony to live their lives according to their vows.”
He wished the couple eternal happiness.
Staff writer Daisuke Kikuchi contributed to this report
This section, appearing in the first week of each month, explores in photographs neighborhoods of interest.