Nikon D700 + Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 120 mm — 1/250 sec, f/2.8, ISO 2800 — map & image data — nearby photos
Kyoto resident Nils Ferry is a popular guy... in fact, he's married about 2,700 women. Only one is actually his wife, with the rest marrying other guys in ceremonies that he's “officiated” as a “minister” over the years.
Most Japanese weddings are complex affairs, usually involving three steps: 1) a visit to a temple or shrine, with only the most immediate family involved, followed by 2) a short ceremony in a fake wedding chapel, followed by 3) a big reception with lots of guests, speeches, and alcohol.
A large hotel usually handles steps #2 and #3, and offer the couple an endless array of packages and options. Besides the standard items familiar to westerners (e.g. how many guests, what kind of food), the couple picks a ceremony. Western or Japanese? American or European? Gospel or Bach? Trumpet or Violin? Couple enter together or bride given away by father? Etc., etc.
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 102 mm — 1/250 sec, f/2.8, ISO 5000 — map & image data — nearby photos
The “Western” option generally provides for a Christian-esque ceremony, and Nils' job is to play the part of the minister. Much taller than me (and I'm 6'4"), he cuts an imposing figure decked out in his robe, but adopts the gracious and warmhearted impression of a Man of the Cloth. (In real life he is gracious and warmhearted, so it's not a difficult task.) In his script he recites from the Bible in both Japanese and English, generally imploring and extolling the power of love to unite the couple through eternity. It's a mini version of a real Christian wedding, with all the touch points like a grand entrance to Here comes the Bride, an exchange of vows, rings, and a “you may kiss the bride”. Twenty minutes from start to finish.
I sometimes use the word “fake” to describe this ceremony, but that's unfair. Much of Japanese culture was originally rooted in religion, but over time has become simply culture for most, in the same way non-Christians in The West might still exchange presents on December 25th. This kind of “fake” Christian wedding ceremony is a modern invention in Japan, but cut from the same “religion as culture” cloth.
That being said, today's ceremony really was fake, because it was a demonstration for prospective couples considering having their wedding at the Westin Miyako, widely regarded as the premier hotel in Kyoto. The bride and groom were hotel staff wrangled to play the part, while others (Nils as the minister, an organist, a singer, and a trumpet player) were from an agency that has a contract with the hotel.
Today was the last day of a long five-day weekend, and Nils was busy every day saying weddings (sometimes 10 a day!). Indeed, he had some this morning, but this afternoon was the demonstration, which are held periodically. Sometimes there are 30 couples in attendance, and sometimes only a few. Today was only a few...
Nikon D700 + 14-24mm f/2.8 @ 19 mm — 1/250 sec, f/2.8, ISO 2500 — map & image data — nearby photos
on the last day of a five-day weekend
I visit with Nils every so often, to let our kids play together or to go on a photo hunt in some corner of Kyoto or another (most recently a couple of weeks ago to Rengeji Temple), but today was the first I've been able to accept his invitation to see him at work.
Some more scenes of Nils at work...
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 140 mm — 1/250 sec, f/2.8, ISO 3600 — map & image data — nearby photos
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 80 mm — 1/250 sec, f/2.8, ISO 1400 — map & image data — nearby photos
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 200 mm — 1/100 sec, f/3.2, ISO 6400 — map & image data — nearby photos
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 70 mm — 1/250 sec, f/3.2, ISO 5600 — map & image data — nearby photos
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 110 mm — 1/250 sec, f/4, ISO 1100 — map & image data — nearby photos
The lady throwing the rose pedals is a singer belonging to the same agency as Nils. She sang Ave Maria and was simply stunning. It brought me back to my own wedding 11+ years ago (also in Kyoto, but at a real Catholic church) because we also had Ave Maria sung.
I was a real cheapskate back then, and deeply regret that I didn't spring for a photographer for my own wedding. What I'd give now to have a photo like the above from my own wedding. 🙁
As the happy couple left on their 1-minute honeymoon (presumably all the way to the employee entrance of the hotel), other hotel staff accompanied the engaged couples on the rest of the hotel tour, and Nils stayed behind, regal as always, until they were out of sight...
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 90 mm — 1/250 sec, f/5.6, ISO 6400 — map & image data — nearby photos
When I first moved to Kyoto in 2004, Nils was the premier Kyoto photo-blogger. However, an eventual byproduct of the first woman he married (his wife) resulted in him becoming a daddy, and with that, his blogging output declined considerably. Greg will start first grade next year, and so perhaps Nils will have time to get back into photo-blogging Kyoto.