She sits down quietly as she looks at herself in the mirror one last time: her wedding dress is impeccable, her hair stunning, her heart racing. She smiles remembering all the people who helped her welcome this day. In those last minutes before she walks down the aisle, she is certain that if she had to relive this moment, she would never hesitate.
As we welcome the beginning of June we can’t help but picture again and again the beauty of weddings — as in many other countries, in Japan it is the season of June brides; one the busiest months of the year for wedding venues. It is a month of celebrations for many newlyweds and, simultaneously, a special time for those who have been through years of marriage: it reminds us of the times when the vows at our weddings meant more than just words.
Across cultures and religions, wedding vows differ: Christian couples promise to be around “for better, for worse, in good times and in bad.” Hindu couples vow “to be true companions and remain lifelong partners” among other things. Muslim grooms pledge to be “faithful and helpful husbands.” In Japan, vows are typically made by a priest, on behalf of the couple, in case of a Western wedding, or a Buddhist priest in traditional weddings. In either case, however, they promise something similar: “to help each other to develop [their] hearts and minds, cultivating compassion, generosity, ethics, patience, enthusiasm, concentration and wisdom.” And stick around even when things go wrong.
If you are one of those skeptical people who think that those are just words, watch the following Japanese movies that will prove you wrong. When you’re done watching, you will think of marriage in a very positive light — and maybe give it a shot yourself?
1. The 8-year Engagement (8年越しの花嫁 奇跡の実話), 2017
When Hisashi meets cheerful and full of life Mai, he is immediately attracted to her: she makes him — a man that’s quiet by nature — want more from life. The two begin a happy relationship that quickly leads to an engagement.
Fate, however, gets in the way just months before the wedding: Mai suffers a seizure that leaves her hospitalized — and with a partial memory loss that includes Hisashi and their engagement. He cancels the wedding but continues to believe that the two will be together. Years pass by and everyone advises Hisashi to give up on Mai and their marriage, but something keeps him holding on to the hope that the two will be together again. Eight long years later, his wish finally comes true…
Based on a real-life story from Okayama Prefecture in southern Japan, as we learn that Hisashi kept re-booking the same wedding venue year after year because he “had made a promise (to Mai)”, we are reminded that yes, true love and lifetime promises do exist.
Cast: Takeru Sato, Tao Tsuchiya
Director: Takahisa Zeze
2. Will you marry my wife? (ボクの妻と結婚してください。), 2016
When TV program producer, devoted husband and father Shuji Mimura discovers he has only a few months to live, he’s confronted by a dilemma: what to do to ensure that his wife regains her passion for life after he’s gone. Of course, he can spend his time quietly with his family, reliving the past and making as many last memories as they could. But the nature of his work — and his promise to always protect the family — call for something more unique. In a strange twist of circumstances, Shuji stumbles upon a matchmaking company that gives him a hint: he is about to find his wife a new husband; one that he personally approves of and respects. What follows is a bittersweet series of events, including the tear-jerking moment when Shuji hands his wife a divorce document telling her he wants to split.
Cast: Yuji Oda, Yoh Yoshida, Taizo Harada
Director: Yoshishige Miyake
3. Looking for a True Fiancée (指輪をはめたい), 2011
This romantic comedy follows the life of a man who is desperately searching for his bride meant to be; the one that has the perfect size for the ring he holds on to. He bought this ring for a special someone, but after an accident and where hits his head, he partially loses his memory and forgets who the ring was for. As he recovers, he meets three completely different women who all appear to be his girlfriends and he tries to find out which of the three was his special one. But is the woman he was going to promise a lifetime to among them? Based on a novel by award-winning author Ito Takami, this film is a true hit that will make you smile — and love somebody — over and over again!
Cast: Takayuki Yamada, Manami Konishi, Yoko Maki
Director: Yuki Iwata
Vows — simple words or unbreakable promises? As we can see in our three movies, when you have found that person who can make any of your blue days brighter, through good times and bad, vows become a lifelong bond — one that’s hard to break!
Text by Rose Haneda