Well let me just tell you now...this is a must read...read it now...with that  said let's begin. For a little while I didn't have an awful lot to report from  the glorious world of Nihon, but that has all changed. I was going to mention  about some more interesting food experiences, but I will save that for another  time...you and your stomach can thank me later.
Now what I think will be THE story of my Japanese life...normally I don't do  all this fanfare but soon you will know why.
Yesterday, Tuesday, I got this mysterious phone call. On the other side of  the line was a man who was speaking in all Japanese. Well, my Japanese isn't  quite up to par to say the least so I was trying to piece it together. I made  out that this man obviously knew me, wanted me to go to some kind of party in  the nearby village, and he said the word actor...which I had no idea what that  meant. Normally on Tuesdays I go to aikido, but he was pretty persistent that I  go with him...he would pick me up at my Jr. high school at 6:50pm.
I wanted to just end this conversation because I had really no idea what was  going on and I thought this was one of the teachers at my Jr. high so I was just  going to call the school back to talk to one of my English teachers to get a  clue. Well I called my school and the mystery thickened when my English teacher  said that she didn't think anyone from there called me...uh okay now what? Do I  skip aikido to meet with some guy I don't know? Or do I stand this guy up  negatively affecting international relations forever? That last question can be  a joke but actually in many situations I ask myself similar questions.
Well I decided (after advice from a close friend) to meet this guy and if he  didn't show then I could always go to aikido. Yes, mom I thought about what if  this guy had some kind of sinister idea?...well most likely I'm bigger than him,  I have extensive aikido training, and if all else failed students at this Jr.  high were bound to still be around at that time. So no problem.
Side note: As I was walking to the front of the school, my new cell phone  rang. It was one of my English teachers who was asking me where I was. To his  laughing surprise I told him I was right to the right of him.
›The man who was meeting me was next to him. Okay, now I remember this  guy. I met him at a karaoke place with some of my teachers. He spoke a little  English, though he didn't on the phone for some strange reason, and we had  exchanged numbers for some reason...I think because he knew of some good  camping/hiking places in the area.
We started walking to his car when he told me that I would be an actor  tonight. An actor? Huh...doing what? With this he proceeded to make a cross on  his chest ALA Catholic style and said the word "Father"...then he said  his friend didn't have a lot of money and he was getting married tonight. At  this point I thought..."nah...couldn't be...he didn't want me to pretend I  was a priest and conduct a wedding"...I'm learning to always trust my first  instinct.
On the 20min ride to "the place" he mentioned a few other  things...one thing that stands out was him saying that this event was a  "big secret"...okay is what I'm going to do illegal? I still don't  know. Another thing that he stated was that his son was now one of my 1st year  students...okay so a student's father was in charge of this...how bad could it  be?
We got to the restaurant for that is where this would all take place. A  rather little place it was. On the way inside he pointed to a big black  Caddy...surely this wasn't all happening. We got inside...he introduced me in  Japanese. Every man was in a suit, every woman in a dress...I was in a  collar-less shirt accompanied by cord jeans...do I need to change or something?  He then proceeded to give me a white dress shirt...just by the sight I knew it  was too small...okay take off your top shirt and wear only the your T-shirt and  here is a black suit coat. I looked a little presentable if you don't mind the  sleeves going to the middle of my arm. I told him I had a black suit at  home...he responded..."No money, no time" with a plausible laugh.
Now the mission became to make me look as much like a priest as possible. I  noticed the man (whose name I still don't know) folding up a white table cloth  into a long rectangle. He gracefully placed scotch tape on the folds and then  proceeded to make crosses on the newly formed lapels with a black magic marker.  I was to put this around my neck and shoulders during the service. Still that  didn't top the next event.
A man walked in with more silver on his fingers and around his neck than I  had seen since witnessing a couple members of the "Hell's Angels" a  few years back. Yes he had a chain connecting his wallet to his belt loop. Then  I noticed the big silver cross that was placed between multiple silver skulls on  a black leather necklace hanging from his neck. The man I came with pointed at  me, said something in Japanese, and the Hell's Angel wannabe took the necklace  off...took out a knife...opened the necklace clasp and pulled off the silver  skulls and cross...placed the cross back on the leather strap and put it around  my neck. He was amazed my neck was so thick and the necklace didn't dangle down  as far on me than on him. My only question was...Now I'm a priest? Did  I›mention I'm not Catholic?
The next 30 minutes we ate and the mystery man (the man I came with will be  called this from now on) introduced me to the woman who would play the electric  organ...who happens to be a teacher at one of my elementary schools...how bad  could this be? Then the music played...the bride came in...all dressed in  white....pictures pictures and then she left. Okay maybe I was just here for a  photo op. That idea was changed when another man in a tux came up to me with a  Japanese marriage book and asked if I could read it. He was noticeably perplexed  when I told him I couldn't. Then the mystery man told me that he wanted the  whole service in English and not to worry that I don't know Japanese.
Now the music started again...both bride and groom...who I thought was the  bride's father at first came into the narrow passage. Where do I stand? What do  I do? When is the last time I went to a wedding? When did I pay attention? Okay  I can do this. They stopped and the mystery man gave me the rings. To say they  came from a slot machine would be an understatement...though I am pretty sure  they did...really. They were both gold plastic...the bride's ring had a plastic  pearl...both could be bent to fit the finger. I stood in front of them and began  the ceremony. Here's what followed...all in English...though I'm sure neither  participant had any idea what I was saying...post thought comments are in  parenthesis...
Dearly Beloved we are gathered here today to join this man with this woman in  holy matrimony. Marriage isn't to be taken lightly (like with fake rings and  minister). It is a divine and special time (as long as it is quick and doesn't  cost a lot of money). Man, (I didn't know his or his bride's name) do you  promise to love, honor, and cherish her, in sickness and in health, in good  times and bad, till death do you part? (he's trying to understand what I'm  saying by leaning in...but I don't think he does) Blank stare...I learned a long  time ago at my schools the Japanese for "repeat after me"...I used it  then said "I do"...he repeated "I do"...Okay good...now  Woman, do you promise to love, honor...blah blah...without help she replied  "I do". I took the woman's ring and gave it to him..."please  repeat after me"..."with this ring, I thee wed"...."with  this ling, I...zee wed"...remember about Japanese pronounciaton...and  likewise she did the same. Then I said "by the power invested in me (what  power? who invested anything?) I now pronounce you man and wife...you may kiss  the bride"...and it was over...finally....
So that was my very interesting experience. Afterwards we all ate again and  the Hell's Angel guy gave the cross that was around my neck to the groom.  Actually he had to do this twice because the first time not everyone saw  it...and the second time it had to be a huge production. I have a lot of  thoughts about my role in this. At least I got a pretty good meal out of it.  Also even though the ring, minister and other things were fake, I would have to  say that I think their love is pretty real. To see his tears of happiness made  me pretty happy for them and happy that I was a part of it all...though I still  don't know how legit it all was....also the cake was pretty good. Yes, I have a  picture to prove it all...
››› Oh yeah today I told a couple of my English teachers the  story.› I said that this is a very strange Japanese experience.› One  teacher said it would be strange for a Japanese person too.› So I would say  that I really can't base this on all or even some Japanese people...this was a  very rare occasion.

. . . A Few Days Later

Some of you have brought up some interesting  points about my wedding service.› So I've answered that here.› Hope  it's insightful.› Also yesterday the son of the mystery man said to me  "Wedding...thank you"...I think his father had him memorize  that... ›
Do you think this was some way to  deceive the girl so that she would THINK she was married and sleep with they guy  thinking it was ok?›
›››  Oh I don't know.› It seemed pretty official outside of  me.› I think they just wanted a "christian" wedding but couldn't  afford one.› So the guy who brought me...the groom's friend...probably  thought...well I know a white guy that could pass for a priest.› See I  don't think they understand the idea the priest/preacher has a special authority  than anyone else, or that weddings are supposed to be sacred for many times they  go through ritual and it doesn't really matter what it means...much the way  Americans are getting. They probably think "how is one white guy different  >from another?"› Basically, and this I recognize is a very general  statement, when it comes to many western things the Japanese do their best to  imitate...they don't care really to understand it.› For instance the church  I go to.› It is actually just a wedding chapel for that is why it was  brought here brick by brick from England by a rich Japanese guy.› See this  J guy had the idea that "christian" style weddings would be popular in  Japan and the more accurate the place is the better and in this case an actual  church from England.› My pastor actually was hired to perform these  weddings and a special bonus was that he could preach on Sunday and at all of  his weddings...he boasts that because of this he has preached to over 5,000  people.›› So the pastor is employed by this J guy...the J guy pays for  all the expenses of the church through the wedding funds...which are pretty huge  since christian style weddings are pretty big here and they are really  expensive.› This gets me back to the other night.› They had the dress  and tux...they looked the part...they had a place...wasn't a wedding chapel but  it was a western looking place...and they had a white guy performing the  ceremony in English...so in their minds it probably is the same. Besides if  the guy was like that I doubt he would have been so emotional about  it.
›You don't think you're going to get in any  trouble do you?››
›››  I doubt it.› I've only told a few of my teachers saying  that the guy told me it was a "big secret"...if anything ever comes  >from it I can just declare foreigner ignorance and the fact I was doing a friend  a favor.› If I was conducting a Japanese style wedding that would be one  thing but I wasn't...it was a western style wedding which isn't even recognized  (I don't think) by the government.› So they probably did both kinds of  weddings.
›Like for impersonating a priest  (ESPECIALLY when you're protestant!! :^)›
›››  Does anyone know this here?› Basically they don't know  the difference between the two...christian is christian...all white people are  christians and therefore they can give a ceremony.› It isn't like any  christian sect has licensing here that would make it official like law...not  like America here.

. . . A Few Days After That

Seems like this story never ends and for that I  apologize.› This whole thing actually has struck up a lot of debate with  some of you so I thought I would fully respond.› If none of this interests  ya just move on. ››› First the most recent  news...Last night at a teachers welcome party I met this woman who is the sister  of the mystery man's girlfriend...did you follow that?› Well through one of  my English teachers I found out that the couple in question were in fact already  married meaning they had the "official" paper, which I believe can  just be applied for but didn't have the ceremony because it was too  expensive.› Also for all of you who are worried about American rules  involving marriage let me just reassure you...this isn't America.› When I  asked a couple of my teachers if I would get into any legal trouble with what I  did they looked at me with a very strange look...and said "Why would you  say that...of course not...you did a favor for someone."›   ››› Which brings me to the  following thoughts.› Some of you are troubled with me impersonating a  priest.› Well if I were in America I never would have done that for a few  reasons.› One reason is the fact that priests, and any type of minister can  be found with one a touch of the finger on the phone and most likely within a  few miles of anyone in a suburb.› This really isn't the case here where any  minister can't be found for miles, if at all, and most of these ministers have  contracts with "wedding chapels" so they wouldn't be able to perform  any kind of ceremony without charging more that $700.› Should only rich  people have a ceremony here?›  ››› Also even in the American  context of what is legally a wedding there are numerous ways.› Many  different people fulfill the role, in certain circumstances, a Justice of the  Peace (which I think the equivalent is what this Japanese couple did), on the  waters a ship's captain, in rural areas sometimes a sheriff, and I'm sure there  are many many others given different circumstances.› Who knows maybe a  license teacher can perform one in some obscure area. ››› Still knowing that they were  officially already married does put my American mind a little more at  ease.› One question I had not thought of that was mentioned by one of you  was if this might have been a trick to get this girl to sleep with the  guy.› Yes, didn't think about that and now at least I know they were  already married so I don't have to think about that anymore.›  ››› I feel fine about my decision  and it just goes to prove that our American definitions of what is legal, not  legal, right or wrong oftentimes is not at all the same in another  culture.› The difficult part is to realize when a cultural difference is  not a moral difference.› A struggle I have daily and I think that this is a  case of a cultural not a moral difference.›››  › ››› Guess that will do unless  there are other questions...bye bye