Max & Hiromi: A Wedding

I never imagined I’d be waking up in a hotel room in Tokyo on the morning of my son Max’s wedding reception. But here I am in the heart of the city checking my suit hanging in my garment bag, hoping it made the long journey unscathed (and unwrinkled). While getting dressed I had flashbacks to my oldest son’s wedding a number of years ago. The feeling was the same. Proud. Happy. Anxious. Much like I felt on my own wedding day so very long ago.

My wife and I gave each other the usual pre-event spot check. No hanging price tags, no lint or loose threads, no stray hairs. We looked great. My tie and pocket square matched the mauve color of my wife’s pantsuit. My light gray suit had barely a wrinkle even after the 14 hour flight.

I was slightly nervous about getting to the event on time. There is always traffic in Tokyo, and the driving rain only made it worse. But rain on your wedding day is lucky (say the people who were unfortunate enough to have rain on their wedding day). I had the address of the venue in my phone but I had no idea where I was going. I showed my phone to the taxi driver who entered the address into his GPS and we were on our way.

Twenty minutes and many side streets later, the cab pulled up in front of a house behind a large gate. The address numbers matched the ones in my phone. The small sign on a stand out front let me know I was in the right place: The Wedding of Max and Hiromi.

After leaving our shoes and umbrella at the door, we met my son inside. The house, named Iseya Hori in Japanese, looked like a museum. It was previously a ceremonial tea house and studio, now rented out as a venue for celebratory functions. There were many rooms with rich wooden walls where eclectic Japanese art hung. There were fully stocked bookshelves, tapestries, and assorted bric-a-brac that would have been at home in the Museum of Fine Arts. 

We met a few of the wedding officiants before my son was called away to get ready for the ceremony. We moved to the room where the main event would take place. We were happy there were chairs for the parents at the front of the room. The other guests would be sitting/kneeling on cushions on the wooden floor. 

Sitting next to us were a group of Max’s friends who made the journey to Tokyo for the wedding. Brian, Chris, Cody and Joey were my son’s childhood friends from Stoneham. I’ve known them since they were little kids. It was comforting to see familiar faces so far from home.

The excitement level amped up when the parents of the bride arrived. Although we had spoken briefly on Facetime with Hiromi’s parents during the pandemic, we never met in person. They were so excited to meet us. The prolonged handshakes, hugs and tears seemed to go on forever.

Dai, the master of ceremonies, asked everyone to take their places as the ceremony was about to begin. The doors at the back of the room opened and Max and Hiromi stepped out. Max looked handsome dressed in a traditional solid black montsuki kimono with white inner layers. Hiromi’s bridal ensemble was breathtaking. Her shiromuku gown was a pure white emroided silk kimono complete with a wataboshi headpiece. The mix of old-world and modern style set the tone of the day.

As the ceremony began, two silver dishes were brought out. One contained a ball of white rice, the other held a cheeseburger slider. The food represented a merger of Japan and the United States. The crowd applauded as we took a bite of the rice ball while the parents of the bride tasted the cheeseburgers in a sign of unity between cultures.

After Max and Hiromi read speeches to the guests in their respective languages, Max turned to me and said, “My father would like to say a few words.” I was caught completely off guard. There was talk early that I might be reading something at the ceremony, but no one mentioned anything specific until that moment, so needless to say I was quite unprepared. 

I looked like a deer in the headlights when Max whispered, “Stand up!”

I had the eyes of the assembly upon me so I knew I had to think quick. After an awkward moment of silence, I outstretched my hands and said, “There is no ‘foreign’. There is only ‘here’.”

Thankfully, someone started a slow golf-clap when they realized that was the end of my “speech”. 

Hiromi turned to her dad and said, “Now my father would like to say a few words.”

The bride’s father stood up and unrolled a long scroll of paper that almost reached the floor. The crowd laughed wondering if we had this planned all along. 

The ceremony ended and the celebration began. Max and Hiromi placed handwritten memories they shared with each of the guests. Into small clear plastic bubble containers and hidden about the house. Once you found one and opened the note, you tried to find the person who matched the memory. It was a unique way to get guests to mingle. The language barrier was never an issue.

I met many of my son’s friends from his network in Tokyo. They were a unique group with diverse backgrounds. They told me the one thing they had in common was my son Max who was the bridge that brought them all together. It was a fitting metaphor that fit the day perfectly. 

One of the highlights of the festivities was a video presentation produced by my son and a musician friend. He film documented how Max and Hiromi met and fell in love. The audeince shared laughter and tears (mostly laughter). 

The celebration ended and guests said their goodbyes. We chatted with Max’s new in-laws and their family using Google Translator as we passed our cell phones back and forth. We would see them again soon. In the morning we will be traveling three hours by Bullet Train on a journey to Okayama to visit Hiromi’s home town on the other side of Japan. This was turning out to be not just a wedding, but the adventure of a lifetime.


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