Shinzen kekkon
   'A wedding before the kami'. A Shinto wedding. Shinto weddings involving a shrine priest or shrine visit are a relatively recent tradition. Buddhism has never regarded marriage as a religious sacrament and Japanese marriage ceremonies were traditionally performed in the home. The custom of involving a shrine priest spread in the Meiji period with the permeation of official 'state shinto' (kokka shinto) into civic life. Some weddings are still held as in the past in large country houses before the butsudan or senzodan (ancestor-shelf) without priestly involvement. In contemporary Japan most weddings (about 63%) are Shinto-style, while about 30% are Christian-style (some are Christian and Shinto, in sequence), while 2% are Buddhist and the rest secular or perhaps according to the rites of one of the new religions if the families are members. Most weddings are held in commercial wedding halls, hotels or at shrines, some of which now have a gishiki-den specially built for wedding ceremonies. The modern Shinto-type ceremony is based on the wedding in 1900 of the crown prince who became the Taisho emperor, the first wedding to be held in a Shinto shrine. Wedding ceremonies symbolise a transition into the married state. The traditional and largely Confucian values underpinning the lifetime marriage relationship, which is regarded as a very serious commitment between two families rather than, or as well as, a matter for two individuals, have evolved in Japan independently of sectarian religious affiliations. In a classical tract on the duties of women, the Onna Daigaku ('Great Learning' for women) the 17th century moralist Kaibara, Ekken set out the traditional orthodoxy, emphasising the duty of submission of the new wife as she 'returned' to live in the home her husband's parents. Some of the new religions today emphasise a very 'traditional' view of marriage, placing responsibility for the success of the union almost entirely on the wife. The commitment between families is symbolised in the central act of a Japanese wedding, the sharing of cups of sake between the bride and groom and afterwards between each of them and the other's parents. The two families then drink together. Other more 'Western' rites such as an exchange of rings and the reading of marriage vows (but by the groom only) may be performed. Weddings are held on auspicious days determined by calendrical calculations deriving from popular Taoism. They offer a chance for families to assert their status and aspirations for the newly married couple through displays of wealth (the average marriage in Japan costs about Ј50,000), so the provision of impressive weddings is an important source of income for Shinto and some Christian institutions in Japan.

A Popular Dictionary of Shinto. .

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