What you can see in the picture there is 1,000 paper cranes, each individually folded by my colleague and good friend as a decoration for her wedding which was held earlier this month. Like me, she is not Japanese but Japan has been a very important part of her life, so she incorporated little bits of Japanese culture into her otherwise very English wedding (held in an old barn that the couple had renovated and decorated themselves in the heart of the beautiful Huntingdon countryside). The decoration isn’t just stunning, but also carries great significance for a wedding – folding 1,000 cranes in Japan supposedly grants happiness, good health, longevity and peace. This is because cranes have been regarded as sacred and magickal animals in Japan for possibly thousands of years, beginning with their worship by the Ainu (the tribe who inhabited the northern island of Japan, Hokkaido, before the people now known as the “Japanese” settled there).
In keeping with the Japanese touches to my friend’s wedding, I gave her money as a wedding gift in a special envelope called oshugi-bukuro, which is what you would do in a Japanese wedding. Traditionally, you should always give the couple clean, crisp notes fresh form the bank to symbolise their new life, but this is actually hard to do in the UK – none of my local bank branches had fresh notes in stock! I guess there’s not much demand for it. But in Japan, which is both highly cash-orientated and where cleanliness and newness is literally next to godliness (both concepts are highly valued in Shinto), you can get new notes quite easily; hotels, where Japanese weddings are often held, always seem to have them in stock.
I also made the couple a pair of teru-teru bozu, like I did for my Hen Party, to pray for good weather on their special day (and I decorated them as a bride and groom). I was delighted to see they actually displayed the teru-teru bozu in the barn at the wedding itself! They seemed to work – although it was overcast, and although there had apparently been a downpour a few miles away, there wasn’t a drop of rain and the sun even came out towards the evening. And before I left, I splashed a little champagne on the teru-teru bozu to thank them.
It was a beautiful and extremely joyful wedding reception, all down to the bride and groom’s amazing preparations. I only hope mine will be as enjoyable for everyone!