You may have heard the popular Japanese saying “deru kugi wa utareru,” or “the nail that sticks out gets hammered down.” Due to this belief, unfortunately many people go to great lengths to hide what makes them unique or special in Japan. When I was an English teacher, I even had students returning from English-speaking countries who put on fake Japanese accents during class so they wouldn’t stand out in the classroom.
In this environment where it’s difficult to stand out from the crowd, it takes a lot of courage to do something different. In this past month we’ve seen two people with plenty of bravery hold unique weddings — one, a solo wedding and the other, a man marrying a fictional character. In both these cases the nail sticking out didn’t get hammered down, but instead received support and encouragement, showing that what makes people unique is slowly starting to be celebrated rather than discouraged.
One of these weddings was a “solo wedding” for writer Mariko Ohanabatake of women’s lifestyle and culture site YouPouch.
At YouPouch, they upload an article on days that end in “1” (like the 1st, 11th, 21st etc.,) with the theme ステキなぼっちの日, or “Lovely Singles’ Day,” where Mariko and other YouPouch writers discuss their experience doing some solo activities.
With Nov 11 (11/11) being comprised of all number ones and therefore an ultimate “Single’s Day,” Mariko decided to celebrate by having her very own solo wedding.
— 御花畑マリコ (@mrk_ohnbtk) November 11, 2018
Rather than focusing on the boring (and expensive) parts such as the ceremony, invites and vows, she decided to keep it cheap and focus on the fun stuff — namely the consultation, trying on wedding dresses, hair and makeup, and a photoshoot. She found a photo studio in Omotesando where she could get all of this for just under ¥20,000 (around USD $180).
At first she was nervous the staff would cringe at this “tired 35-year old” coming to get solo wedding photos taken, but she was welcomed warmly and pampered throughout the experience. She says she highly recommends the experience to all women, and based on the positive feedback on Twitter (including over 4,000 likes and retweets), as well as several comments saying they would be interested to try out a solo wedding too, there are few signs of her being hammered down to what’s standard.
We also saw another wedding earlier this month on Nov 4 where school administrator Akihiko Kondo married famous vocaloid and fictional character Hatsune Miku. While Ohanabatake was looking for a budget-friendly option, Kondo pulled out all the stops, spending ¥2 million on the ceremony according to the Japan Times article published Nov 12. For him, the marriage was not just a celebration of his devotion and love for Miku but also a way to encourage others who have a love for fictional characters.
“Diversity in society has been long called for […] I believe we must consider all kinds of love and all kinds of happiness,” he was quoted as saying.
While his family did not attend, friends and colleagues who were there offered their congratulations on social media.
— おぎの稔 大田区議会議員 (@ogino_otaku) November 4, 2018
@yamadatori43 was a witness, tweeting that happiness comes in different shapes and sizes.
— 山田太郎前参議院議員@3日目S24a (@yamadataro43) November 4, 2018
Others online also showed their support, some even sending him fan art to commemorate the occasion.
フォロワーの方から絵をいただきました。可愛いです。(*^^*) ありがとうございます。m(_ _)m pic.twitter.com/4S0HreVftC
— 近藤 顕彦@Gateboxお迎え (@akihikokondosk) November 5, 2018
In today’s Tweet of the Week we can also witness a pretty eccentric declaration of love at a wedding after-party from an unnamed groom. The NSFW image went viral last week with many people saluting the husband’s boldness. However, the tweet has since been deleted which just goes to show that it’s never easy to put yourself out there, especially on the internet.
Still in a society where it is a challenge to be anything but normal, these newlyweds are paving the way to be brave and celebrate what makes you unique. And with some of the positive response they’re receiving, it seems that Japanese society may be slowly changing by not beating down people who stand out, but rather embracing them.
What do you think of these weddings? Would you ever do a solo wedding yourself? We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments!