Friday was a very joyful day. In the morning, I was doing a visit to a local primary school as part of their “world festival” - the school had rounded up a few likely foreigners, and we had to give a short presentation on our home countries and then a thirty-minute activity. I got the kids doing the London Bridge nursery rhyme and game, and while it was a bit slow to start, they got there in the end.
It was my first time in a Japanese primary school. I was very impressed by the school and the way the kids were encouraged to take initiative and responsibility. Each guest had a “host” who took us around and showed us the activities that were going on in the various classrooms. One of those activities was a room where the children were giving presentations to the visitors (us guests and their parents) about the countries the guests had come from. I was also very impressed that all the kids already knew our names, as photos, names, and greeting phrases in each of our languages had been put up around the school for the past month. And as I joined one of the classes for lunch in their classroom, they were asking interested and intelligent questions of me. It was a lot of fun!
After lunch, we all headed off back to the train station, and I got a lift from there to Linea, one of the many wedding chapels in the area, where I pretended to be a foreign vicar. Thankfully I have some experience in my role, and was able to conduct myself reasonably well. There’s a trend here in Japan for Christian-style wedding ceremonies, in purpose-built wedding chapels. Usually they’re in a hotel, but this was just a wedding chapel/reception place. To complete the stereotypical picture of the Holywood wedding, you need a Western vicar to perform the ceremony. Their usual Western vicar - my boss - is currently out of the country, so they asked me to do one. It’s a civil ceremony with a Christian theme, so the “vicar” doesn’t need to be ordained, and so this is a good line of work for out-of-work actors who are passing through Japan and jobbing English teachers. That said, the company which contracted me is a Christian business which only employs missionaries or Japanese pastors.
I don’t particularly want to get into this as a regular thing, not that I have the time, but it was fun. You have to not let on to the bride and groom that it’s your first time, so I tried to look confident and authoritative even though I had absolutely no idea what was going on. I’d got a very well documented script that my boss uses, but until you’re actually there doing it some of the details are always going to be hazy. Thankfully the staff at the hall were very helpful - if a little stern for my liking with the obviously terrified groom - and took charge of the rehearsal. I fumbled a few things in the rehearsal out of nerves, but in the actual ceremony I think everything went off OK. My own voice was a bit too stern for that happy occasion at times, though! It’s hard to do solemn and caring at the same time.
Because it was my first time and because the staff took over, I didn’t get much time with the bride and groom. I did manage to say a few reassuring words beforehand, but the vicar is not invited to the reception and is expected to disappear pretty much straight after the ceremony. But - although I hate to admit it - I really just wanted to do it for the experience. And the experience is still doing my head in - the thought that somewhere in Japan there’s now a couple who have started out their married life together because I so proclaimed it. And if I don’t do any more, then, well, that’ll be even more special.
And to cap it all, just before I started the ceremony, I got a phone call on my mobile. I was swearing and cursing and trying to get rid of it, and ended up taking it. “This is the police; we’ve found your stolen bike. Come and pick it up today!” Result!