Shinto Religion Lies at heart Of Wedding Ceremony

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

THE wedding ceremony for Crown Prince Naruhito and Masako Owada will take place in the most sacred and secret spot in the imperial palace, which lies in the heart of Tokyo.

The two will enter a Shinto shrine, built in 1888, called kashikodokoro, which is home to the mythical Japanese sun goddess, Amaterasu Omikami. The goddess is symbolized by a replica of the divine mirror said to have been given to the first emperor more than 1,500 years ago.

The ceremony, based on ancient records, will start early in the morning with offerings to the gods and prayers by a chief priest as music is played from ancient instruments. Then, under the gaze of ladies-in-waiting, the princess-to-be will walk in slow measured steps down a gallery to the inner sanctuaries.

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She will wear a multicolored, 12-layer costume known as a juni-hitoe, which takes a long time to put on and requires two train-bearers. The crown prince will wear formal dress in bright orange, a color symbolizing the rising sun.

The couple will make an offering with branches from a sacred tree; then the crown prince will recite a marriage vow for the gods. After that, they go to an outer chamber where they will drink rice wine together from white unglazed cups.

By tradition, the emperor and empress will not be there. Instead, the newlyweds will formally inform the parents of the marriage in the afternoon.

After that, the couple will ride in a car about four miles from the palace to their home. Then they go through three days of public celebrations and state banquets.

The wedding was judged to be an "act of state" by the government, which decided to give $3 million to pay for the event. Several million dollars more will be spent on security. The date, June 9, was chosen because it was judged as an auspicious day according to traditional fortunetelling.

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