One of the first things my boyfriend Hitomi wanted to see when he visited my hometown in Canada was a real church.
Wait, a real church?
Yes. Because, ladies and gentlemen, the churches are (mostly) fake in Japan.
What do I mean by “fake”?
In Canada, churches are a place of meditation, mass and prayers; it is, as everyone probably already knows, usually linked to the Christian religion.
In Japan, however, Christianity is not a popular religion. Actually, Japanese generally avoid choosing a main religion consciously, but they do have many holidays and customs related to Buddhism and Shinto.
So, why is there churches in Japan, if those places are not related to Buddhism nor Shinto, and are not a community center where you can seek help and pray?
Those churches have one purpose and one only: to add a Western feel to a Japanese wedding ceremony.
I can actually understand that purpose. It’s true that the inside of a church is very beautiful, with the stained glasses and the high ceiling. But for a Japanese native, it also adds a bit of an exotic feel.
I myself would gladly have a traditional Shinto ceremony in Japan if I get married here, partly because I love that culture, and also because it is still exotic to me. However, I’ve never heard of fake Shinto temples and Shinto wedding ceremony going on in Canada.
Is that culture appreciation, or culture appropriation? The line is fine between those two words, but I personally don’t mind if there are “fake” churches in Japan. A soon-to-be married couple wants a Western feel for their wedding? Then go ahead. I don’t see the wrongness in that.
It is, however, very surprising at first (and kind of funny, I must admit).
And anyway, there is also many things in Canada that are taken from the Asian influence, just to give an exotic feel to us Canadians. Hitomi was very surprised and amused when he saw a policeman in Toronto with the kanji 悪, which means “bad”, tattooed on his upperarm.
But the funniest and weirdest thing about the Western weddings in Japan is when there’s a foreigner hired only for playing the role of the priest (even if he’s not really a priest, and not Christian).
This job is, as I heard, very well-paid. It is, afterall, a very serious thing to join two people together (by the law) until death to them apart.
If you want to know more about “fake” priests, you can read this post by the popular blog “Tofugu”. It’s very interesting, so I highly recommend it!
I wonder if the fact that I find all this pretty harmless is because I’m not Christian. I guess that for a Christian it might stroke a nerve to take this religion and transform its sacred ritual into something only aesthetic.