Most visitor stories of Harujuku include the colourful young things assembling around the station, families taking in the relative sanctuary of Yoyogi Park, or of the bustling shopping precinct around Omotesando-dori and Meiji-dori. Photos a plenty of cosplay girls, old-time rock and rollers, street theatre, and actors rehearsing.
So on one of those popular spring Sundays where the crowds were insanely large, Veronica and I unexpectedly found ourselves winding along what could easily be mistaken for as a back lane in a French city. Unusual to say the least. I reckon I could find that lane again, and stand there peering up the narrow way and say to myself – am I really in Tokyo?
In a lovely restaurant, a wedding reception was in progress. Dozens of formally attired guests mingling with the bride and groom. Children running around, tugging at long dresses. Laughing, smiling. Drinking and eating. From our vantage point, a really happy sight.
And while intently reading the wedding placard at the entrance to the venue, something very unusual happened.
The wedding notice set in a display case on the venue steps was intriguing with its Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse signatures. And given the shorts and casual shirt, sandals for me, and backpack slung over the shoulder, I thought it was pretty clear we were not latecomers to matrimonial event.
Not that it concerned the mother of the bride! No sooner had we worked out the Tokyo Disney references on the notice than a very happy woman strode down the few steps and gestured for us to come inside. Our glazed look must have given away our surprise at this invitation. In halting English this lady expressed that she was the proud mother of the Bride.
We accepted this kind gesture, with a mixture of reluctance and excitement. Drinks and nibblies are soon offered to us. Next thing you know, Mother is excitedly ushering the Bride over to meet with her new guests. From Australia no less. Sorry we came dressed like this, but we thought the invitation said ‘casual dress’.
Minutes went by. Standing around wondering what are we doing here, it then started to become a little bit awkward. What do we do now? Take a seat at the head table? What about pushing that old guy off the end of the table under the window?
A short conversation ensued with the bride. A lovely girl who had spent some time at the Gold Coast in Australia as an exchange student. And then photos. Yes, a photo with the bride and groom! I left my business card in the hope of getting a copy of the photo. What a story that picture would tell!
Now what. With half a beer left and Veronica urging me to make a subtle exit, I noticed the Bride’s Father was engaged in earnest conversation while sharing a drink with the mother of the Bride. Given the formality of the occasion, I did think his casual attire was in stark contrast to the wedding party and the guests. While I thought this was a little odd, I did have to remind myself we were actually now at a wedding reception of someone we did not know. In another country. Dressed like cheap travelers.
Veronica whispered in my ear that the “father” was actually the tourist who was walking a bit ahead of us as we came past the reception house. He had also got the invitation! Swallowing the last of my beer, we made for the exit just as I was being invited to make a speech on behalf of the international visitors.
Never did get that photo sent to us. I can imagine sometime later the family going through the hundreds of photos of the great day. Who the hell are these two?