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Culture 1 Culture Diversity: How marriage in the U. S. differ from Japan Brian Moore Introduction to Cultural Anthropology ANT 101 Professor Macek May 6, 2010 Culture 2 Culture Diversity: How marriage in the U. S. differ from Japan Marriage is a respected tradition all over the world, followed in all cultures with different rituals. It is the legal engagement of a man and woman, giving them the respect and dignity of a family, the individuals agreeing to the strong relationship bond being called husband and wife.

The union that is bestowed upon the two individuals is considered to be holy and is hoped to bring happiness to their lives, providing a companion to share their life with. Marriages can be different in different cultures, following different ceremonies, traditional practices, and rituals. However, the intention of the ceremony is always the same, to bring the man and woman together, to give them the status of a family and let them live in unison. A marriage is the form of satisfying a human need for a companion to share the life with, the sorrows, the pain, the joys and the affection.

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It is in the nature of a human to love and to want to live in the company of a partner; this is satisfied by a marriage. Although all weddings serve the same purpose, different cultures follow different traditional practices and follow different sets of rules regarding the process of marriage. The ceremonies are quite different, including the pre-marriage and post-marriage ceremonies. Background Marriage is a significant part of cultures all over the world and so various cultural elements get exhibited during the marriage ceremonies.

This includes the American as well as the Japanese wedding ceremonies. That is, each country’s cultural aspect gets exhibited and incorporated in the marriage ceremonies that are conducted in the respective countries. Here, the key issue is, as America and Japan have distinct culture and traditions different from one another, the American marriage ceremony and the Japanese marriage ceremony have many differences. The differences in cultures can be clearly seen in the ceremonies, practices and rules that the wedding ceremony follows Culture 3 in America and Japan.

So, this paper will compare the tradition or practice of American marriage ceremony with the Japanese marriage ceremony. Differences regarding the aspect of religion In America, weddings can be religious or a secular or a social event, and so they can take place anywhere. Although, the majority of the Americans are Christians and so their marriage naturally takes place in churches. However, with the identity of different groups like Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish, the site of marriage also may differ. In addition, American marriages can also take place practically anywhere.

It could be any place that the couple thinks has the setting for a lively and happy celebration; a place that would make the day a lot more memorable. The only requirement would be a clergyman who would have to certify the wedding, legally wedding the two individuals. In Japan, religion plays a major role and so most of the Japanese marriages take place in Shinto shrines. Majority of the Japanese follow Shinto or Buddhism or both and so the most common religious place for marriage is the Shinto Shrines and so these shrines provide wedding sites for marriage.

The historical practice of a typical Japanese wedding is meant to be conducted in a Shinto Shrine. It is the basic necessity for a traditional Japanese wedding. However, practices have changed over time and not all Japanese weddings are conducted in Shinto Shrines these days. Although not followed by all, wedding sites often help by offering couples with Shrines that they may get married in. This would allow for the wedding to be all the more traditional and typical. However, in the past few decades, the religious aspect of Japanese weddings has undergone major changes.

This is because sizable contemporary weddings exhibit a mixture of both Shinto as well as the Christian elements. Although most of the Japanese people indulging in this ‘fusion’ are Culture 4 not Christians. “In accordance with this approach, the chapel wedding will be shown to manifest a combination of ritual forms characteristic of both a Euro-American Christian chapel wedding and ritual forms found in Japanese culture” (Fisch, 2001). However, those marriages happen only minimally, with the majority of the Japanese getting married through the traditional ceremony in the Shinto shrines.

However, when this aspect of religion and the place of marriage are looked at from the American perspective, there is not much uniformity. Thus, the role of religions and thereby wedding location differs in the Japanese and the American marriage, with the Japanese marriage following (or restricted to) just Shinto or Buddhist and the Christian traditions, while the American weddings following Christian traditions takes place at many places, although a majority of them take place in the Churches. Marriage ceremony Most of the Japanese marriages are arranged ones, with the parents and the family doing the matchmaking duties.

With love marriages being minimal and with parents playing the key role, Japanese marriages are mainly attended by the families and the relatives, with no or few friends. The total wedding ceremony is simple and lasts only for about thirty minutes. The groom and the bride wear traditional Japanese costumes and take center stage in the wedding site in the shrine. The clothing worn by the bride and groom is a traditional outfit, a white Kimono for the bride, which is specifically known as shiromuku. It usually contains a cover for the head, placed on an elaborate hair decoration.

The groom is to wear the traditional black formal Kimono known as the montsuki, a kimono jacket called haori and kimono pants called hakama. This covers the dressing for the Japanese wedding. When the bride and groom start exchanging their Culture 5 wedding vows, their respective families, instead of watching the couple getting married will face each other from either side. The key part of taking wedding vows and which is central to the traditional Japanese marriage ceremony is the ritual of taking a sip of sake from nine cups, after which only the couple is considered married.

This process is known as san-san-kudo, literally meaning 3-3-9 times. The bride and the groom are to take three sips each from three different lacquer ware cups, declaring the wedding official. The respective families also drink sake together, thereby symbolizing the bonding between them as well. There will also be an exchange of wedding rings and this finalizes their wedding. All these wedding process takes place without any bridesmaid or a best man. However, in total contrast, American marriages always start with the selection of the bridesmaid and the best man.

American marriage is different from the Japanese marriage at the ‘outset’ itself. That is, most of the American marriages are ‘love’ marriages, with the couple only initiating and deciding the marriage process, which is completely different to the prominent role played by the parents in Japan. Once the couple announces their engagement and marriage plans, the first process is the selection of Maid of Honor and Bridesmaids by the bride, and at the same time Best Man and groomsmen by the groom. This is non-existent in Japanese weddings, but it is a key thing in American weddings.

The best man and the maid of honor are two people picked out by the bride and groom and are considered a great honor to be asked for the same. Only the most trustworthy and dependable of friends or family become the maid of honor and the best man. These two people are to be supportive during the wedding event and help in organizing and managing the events of the wedding and the party. Also, before the marriage, there will be fun filled bachelor and bachelorette parties, held by the groom and Culture 6 bride separately with the friends of the same sex. However, this is not followed by the about to be married Japanese couple.

Although, a sizable number of American marriages like their Japanese counterparts take place in the religious setting, such as a church or synagogue, there are vast differences in other processes or customs. While the Japanese marriage is a close family affair, American weddings are attended by the friends of the couple in large numbers, along with the couple’s families. In the marriage setting, these family and friends are seated facing the couple, with a good number of accompaniments. Family and friends are invited and the presence of a maid of honor and best man is sure.

Apart from them, there are others who are part of the ceremony such as ring bearers, flower girls, and even a music band sometimes. The way the wedding vows are taken is also different. As mentioned above, Japanese take wedding vows by sipping the sake, while the Americans’ wedding vows has always been in the spoken form. The ceremony usually includes wedding vows where the bride and groom talk of the love and the bond that they share and the reasons why they wish to share their lives with one another, also promising to bring upon the other happiness and a secure life.

After conclusion of the wedding vows, wedding rings are exchanged, with the religious official asking the groom to kiss the bride as a form of complete unison. The groom does that by lifting the veil amidst the clapping and happiness of the guests. However, this practice of kissing the bride at the wedding ceremony is not followed in the Japanese marriages. As kissing between the opposite sexes are not commonly practiced in the public, this practice of kissing the bride amidst the family and friends is maximally avoided in Japanese weddings.

Culture 7 Reception parties In almost all cultures, weddings are followed by wedding parties or what is commonly known as a reception, usually as a form of celebrating the event of the marriage. Just as there are several differences in the wedding practices and ceremonies followed by the Americans and the Japanese, there are differences in the wedding party as well, the people that are invited, the formalities and the celebration. Altogether, they have very few commonalities such as serving food and playing music.

However, the differences are many. A typical American wedding party includes the cake cutting followed by a toast proposed to the bride and groom by a friend or family member. The central object of the American wedding is a wedding cake of the kind one might expect to find at any American church wedding: three-tiered, frosted in white, topped with the inevitable miniature figures of a bride and groom in Western Wedding dress (Edwards, 1982). All friends and known people join this lively celebration, there is wine and food served around.

Music is perhaps the most important part of the celebration and is usually selected by the bride and groom, or sometimes the maid of honor or the best man, who play important roles in organizing the event. All couples dance during the party, the dance being a much awaited part of the wedding party. In contrast to the American wedding party, Japanese wedding parties are a lot quieter and almost never have dances as part of the party. The Japanese wedding is arranged in a hotel and do not usually have a cake cutting ceremony.

As Japanese sensitivity to word play prohibits the use of the word “cut” at weddings…. so although the cake is presented at the weddings, it is not cut or divided and shared by all present, nor are pieces preserved by freezing, as is the modern American custom…the Japanese version of the wedding cake, it turns out, is inedible (Edwards, 1982). Instead, they have a sit down meal, accompanied by drinks. The crowd does not consist of friends of the groom or bride, but rather the family member, business clients, colleagues and officials.

The most Culture 8 common form of music in a Japanese wedding is the karaoke singing which comes after the long speeches made by business clients or the nakado, who acts as the best man. The opening speech given by the nakado is believed to be very important, while most other speeches are considered optional. The wedding celebrations of the Japanese are usually much shorter and concise when compared to the elaborate American wedding parties that sometimes go on through the night, having all friends gathered with the music and dance.

All together, the American wedding parties are seen to be livelier than those of the Japanese. From this analysis, it is clear that American marriages and Japanese marriages have many differences. Starting from who initiates the process, there are visible differences throughout the marriage traditions and customs. That is, as discussed above, parents only initiate the marriage process in Japan, while the couples themselves initiate the process in America. Vows and the guests invited are the major differences in the wedding ceremony, which is followed by the reception.

The wedding party is seen to be different among the two cultures in regard to the practice of music and dance. Starting from this, many ceremonies including the pre-marriage and post-marriage ceremonies have sizable differences. Culture 9 References Edwards, W. (1982). Something Borrowed: Wedding Cakes as Symbols in Modern Japan. American Ethnologist 9 (4): pp. 699-711. Fisch, M. (2001). The Rise of the Chapel Wedding in Japan: Simulation and Performance. Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 28 (1/2): pp. 57-76.

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