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Naked Man Journal
Tom Fast

See Tom's memoirs & album covers in the NAKED MAN duct.

Volume 10: I'm Not a Real Priest


Aloha! And welcome to the Blue Lagoon Chapel here in beautiful Hawaii! You must be tired from your journey. Do not worry. Here you can take a moment to relax before you begin your new lives in Holy matrimony."

I sounded like Mr. Rourke from Fantasy Island, but that was the best ad-libbing I could do. Chizu hadn't really given me much to go on. All she said was that I had to include the "Aloha" line as well as say they must be tired after their long trip -- 2 things a priest would probably never say at a real wedding.

But of course, this ceremony wasn’t real – and I’m not a real priest. Once again, I was in one of those Twilight Zone moments that only a foreigner in Japan can get himself into. I was being paid 10,000 yen (100 bucks) + train fare, to act as a Catholic priest in a demonstration wedding. Of course, the money wasn’t really the point. I was doing it mainly as a favor to my friend Chizu who works for a travel agency that arranges "American-style" weddings in Hawaii and of course to tell people at future cocktail parties about how "I was once a priest."

The wedding package includes everything you could want to make your wedding perfect: Dresses, tuxes, photographs, a white stretch, even musical entertainment. But that’s not all! At no extra charge they’ll release a flock of multicolored doves at the end of the ceremony!

It turns-out, I was actually Chizu’s 2nd choice to play the part. Initially she’d hoped that our mutual friend ToShun could do it (see NM 8). Unfortunately, he was still on vacation in the US. ToShun, with his foot-long dreadlocks and appetite for women had never really struck me as the priestly type. But then Chizu’s brain works in mysterious ways. Perhaps he had the right look for a chaplain at the Blue Lagoon Chapel?

Anyway, I got the job in Toshun’s absence. Still, I had no priestly robes. All I wore was a black suit with a red piece of cloth draped over my shoulders. I looked more like a televangelist, except that I lacked a hairdo of biblical proportions.

The "Blue Lagoon Chapel" was also a little lacking. Desks had been pushed back and folding chairs had been set-up in the middle of the travel agency. A red carpet led down the middle of the room to my "podium" (music stand). Bright yellow vending machines flanking me on each side gave-off what could be interpreted as "heavenly light" if you were legally blind.

The MC stood just off to my left beside a whiteboard. Occasionally he’d jump in and give everyone a John Madden style explanation of what was happening in the ceremony, complete with X and O diagrams: "Notice how you are expected to walk in unison to the wedding march music! One, stop, two, stop, three, etc! Isn't interesting?!"

There was also a large photograph on the whiteboard of a newly wed Japanese couple standing together waving out of the sunroof of the limo. They had ecstatic grins on their faces but instead of making the mandatory "peace sign" pose, they opted for their newly mastered Hawaiian "Hang 10." Behind the limo you could see the Blue lagoon chapel (which really is blue by the way) and the pastel rainbow doves flying off into the horizon.

After my little "aloha" welcome, I was supposed to read a passage from the Bible. Chizu assumed that because my father was a minister, as was my grandfather, that naturally I would know exactly what to read. She was wrong. 10 minutes before the ceremony, I asked her, "Will anyone there speak English?" "Probably not" was her reply. So I decided to open the Bible to a random page and simply read it with a smile on my face. I figured I'd leave it up to God himself. Well, God obviously has a great sense of humor. At the designated time, I opened the Bible and spoke:

"I hear there is FORNICATION among you!"

I looked up in shock. I’d randomly landed on the page where Paul speaks to the Corinthians on the evils of incest! 50 blank Asian faces awaited my next words of wisdom. Wheeeeww! I thought to myself. I enthusiastically read on.

The bride stood shaking in her dress, as did the groom in his gaudy, white tux, with big gold buttons. Both were too nervous to even hear me. The two were young travel agents who’d been voted most potentially attractive couple by their coworkers and forced into it. Beads of sweat were forming on the groom's brow. His outfit reminded me of Captain Stubing on the Love Boat. I looked back down and finished my speech on the vilification of sleeping with thy own sister.

Now it was my turn to get nervous. According to the official script, after the reading I was supposed to break out a ukulele and dedicate a Hawaiian wedding song to the couple. Hard to believe but yes, they actually have some guy in Hawaii (I wonder if he’s a real priest?) who does this whole act! "A weekee heelee haylee and uh I uh luva luva luvva youuu!" I saw it with my own eyes on a Blue Lagoon wedding on video after the demonstration was over.

Much to my relief the MC explained that I wouldn't be singing, but assured them they'd get their song if they signed up. He then went on to explain that after the song, the Bride and Groom exchange their vows of love. He bowed and apologized profusely for my not singing, then asked that I continue. It was time for the exchanging of the rings:

"Do you Haruko, take Masamichi to be your lawfully wedded husband, in sickness and in health until death do you part?"


.... "I do" (I whispered).

"Hi!" err, "Yes, I do!"

"Do you Masamichi, take Haruko to be your lawfully wedded wife, in sickness and in health until death do you part?"

"Yes I do."

"By the power vested in me (what power?) I now pronounce you man and wife. You may kiss the bride.

"I said, you may kiss the bride!"

No kiss. The couple just stood there with embarrassing smiles on their faces. They were paralyzed with the fear that they might actually have to kiss each other in public.

"Cutoh!" said the MC and at that point he explained that, in a real "American wedding" the kiss makes the union official and that all couples do it. Gasps of nervous laughter were heard among the crowd. I could tell they were shocked by the idea, but at the same time, intrigued. They must have felt it was something extremely bold and romantic. In other words, totally foreign, but something they’d like to try if only they could summon the nerve.

I still couldn't believe what a big fuss everyone was making over a little kiss! You people can sit naked in public baths together! Why can't you kiss each other in public?! Because most Japanese people would rather expose their private parts than their private feelings? Well, maybe that’s going a bit far, but you get my point.

That was basically the end of the ceremony. I gave the final "aloha" statement and good-bye to the couple and the demonstration was over. Afterward, I decided to stay a while and watch some of the Japanese women enthusiastically try on the company's wedding dresses. Interestingly enough, they weren’t all white. In Japan, just about any color goes, even orange or pastel green.

The popularity of Christian weddings in Japan still strikes me as odd. They've got their own wedding ceremonies, so why opt for a Christian one? First, they don't really think of them as "Christian" like we do. Most Japanese associate the word "Christian" with overzealous Mormons, Jehovah's Witness, Baptists, etc. knocking on their doors and trying to convince them that if they don't stop praying to their idols and start worshiping this blue-eyed hippie gaijin guy, they’ll burn in Hell! If I tell them I'm a Christian, they automatically assume that I am so extreme in my religious beliefs that I'd be willing to jump in front of a bus to prove to them that my god will protect me. Most Japanese do not consider themselves to be very religious even though they may have shrines in their houses that they meticulously care for and pray in front of every day. To them, our weddings are simply "Western" which is synonymous with romantic, gallant, chivalric, etc.

They've taken the religion out of the Christian wedding and made it their own, just as in the US we've taken the spice out of Mexican food and made it into Taco Bell. To me, both concepts seem ridiculous, but for some reason the idea of adopting another culture's religious ceremonies minus the religion seems more odd than a "Bell Beefer with Mexi-fries. ... Hmm, well now that I put it that way, maybe not.


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