Japan Diaries Day 15 – Wedding Photos


Continuing the diary of my one-month trip to Tokyo in December, which begins here! After our 3-day, 2-night pre-wedding honeymoon trip to Hakone, my fiance and I had rested up and were ready to take engagement/pre-wedding/wedding photographs!



We had already been fitted for wedding clothes just before leaving for Hakone, and now it was time to take the actual photographs. My fiance’s father had picked Watabe Wedding as the studio for our photographs and was paying for it as a wedding gift.

A lot of Japanese couples take photos before their wedding day, usually to make a large poster to display at the reception hall. Japanese couples also get married at the courthouse prior to the actual ceremony, which can be 6 months to a year later. We knew that we were not going to have much of a chance to have a wedding after I defended my master’s thesis and before starting work, and since I was using my last Christmas holiday to spend a month in Japan, we decided to everything like take photos, have a honeymoon, etc., prior to actually getting married. Since my fiance was coming to the US on a K-1 or fiance visa, we also couldn’t technically get married in Japan, since the US recognizes a marriage in Japan.

We were told that the photography would last about 8 hours, so we ate breakfast and brought a lunchtime snack just in case. The traditional Japanese wedding kimono was the first of the three wedding garments I would wear for the day. Aki and I brought undergarments and socks, but the rest was provided by the company. We rented three kimono, one for him and two for me, a Western-style wedding dress, and a suit.

The woman who attended my clothes, hair, and make-up for the day of course asked me the same questions that everyone had been asking me: how my fiance and I met, why I was able to speak Japanese so well, what life was like in America compared to Japan, what was my major, etc. She was very friendly and had her own travel stories as well. We also had plenty of time to talk as she bound me up in layer upon layer of kimono cloth, and deftly tied everything up so that it would not move (and so that I also would not move or breathe too much).

Watabe Wedding

Watabe Wedding Studio
Traditional white wedding kimono
photo by kei

The traditional kimono is white, with an intricately embroidered pattern in white. There is also a headpiece called a tsunokakushi which completely covers your hair. Underneath the headpiece, I wore a wig styled in a traditional hairstyle. I imagine it would have been much more difficult to make my own hair into such an intricate shape, and although the wig got slightly tight partway through, I was happy to have it. Aki wore a traditional black and white men’s kimono, with his family crest or kamon attached.

The next garment was another kimono, with a chrysanthemum pattern in pink. I preferred this to a “color dress” which is just a western-style dress in a bright color, because how often do I get to wear a kimono (hint: not very often). I thought it was sakura when I picked it out, but when I went back I realized it was chrysanthemum, although it was still my favourite. The undergarments were the same, it was just the outer kimono that was changed from white to pink. I also took off the tsunokakushi and just wore the wig. Aki didn’t have to change.

Watabe Wedding

Watabe Wedding Studio
Chrysanthemum pink kimono
photo by kei

In between the two kimono sessions and the Western-style wedding dress session, we took a break. Everytime I did a wardrobe change, the studio had another couple that they photographed. I assume this is because of the lack of studio space, and to get as many people in as possible. Aki hated waiting and got cranky everytime we were told to please wait, but I didn’t mind it so much.

We were going to eat our snacks, but when we left the dressing room for our break we were surprised to see his mother had come by with katsu sando or pork cutlet sandwiches. If you’ve ever had tonkatsu, the breaded and fried pork cutlets that usually come in a rice bowl, you can imagine katsu sando. It’s breaded and fried pork cutlets, cut into smaller pieces and tucked between two bread slices. After 4 hours of photography, it was the best meal I had ever eaten! His parents are both very kind, and I was so grateful to her for having brought us food.

After lunch, it was back to the dressing room to prepare for the Western-style photographs!

The wedding dress was a little easier to move around in than the kimono, but it was still not very easy to breathe in. Aki’s suit seemed a little bit less difficult, but men’s garments are less constricting in any culture it seems. We had to wait quite a bit for the family who was being photographed to finish up, and Aki was getting really impatient. We had seen the family, with a small girl, her parents, and grandparents, and I thought it might be some kind of anniversary photo (since it was at a wedding studio). I didn’t mind the chance to sit, even though it was more difficult to breathe when sitting in the wedding dress.

Watabe Wedding

Watabe Wedding Studio
Western-style wedding dress
photo by kei

We were both tired, but put on our best smiles for the last photo shoot. I noticed that as I got more tired, I found it harder to distinguish who the fast-talking photographer was instructing. Throughout the day he would call goshinpusama (ご新婦様) for the bride and goshinrousama (ご新郎様) for the groom. We would then turn this way, turn that way, back up, move forward, or reposition our feet. During this last session I kept missing my cues but my attendant helped me through it. I also think he was trying to hurry through it a little bit, since the family had taken so long.

After we had taken the last set of shots, the photographer went off to do a bit of preprocessing. We had a few hundred photographs to go through, so we dressed in our normal attire and waited for the proofs to come out. While we were waiting, Aki’s mother came back to look at proofs, and a little bit later his father joined us. Of course, my fiance wanted to leave all the picking up to me, but we decided that we would get to pick the single shots of each other, and then I ended up deciding on the majority of the couple shots.

You go through a few rounds of picking photos (since there are multiples of each pose ranging from full-on smiling to serious), then whittle down the number of photos. I originally had picked the 20-photo with an album plan, and was ready to pick 20 of my favorite, but the sales associate suggested we could add 10 more photos for a small fee and Aki’s father agreed. I wasn’t so sure that the small fee was worth it, but I wasn’t going to argue outright. It ended up being as I thought; the small fee increased if you actually wanted to add the photos to the album, and his father was pretty upset because he felt the employee hadn’t been upfront with him and had misrepresented the cost. I insisted that we take 10 photos out, but no one listened to me.

We ended up getting the 10 photos anyways, but I felt bad that it had ended up costing more. Aki was already cranky from waiting, and his father was now cranky too, but by the time we went to dinner everyone was in a better mood. I of course made sure to thank his mother and father profusely.

Here are a few (edited) examples of our final product:

Watabe Wedding

Traditional white wedding kimono and tsunokakushi
Traditional men’s black and white kimono
photo by kei

Watabe Wedding

Chrysanthemum kimono with wig
photo by kei

I rather enjoyed the experience, but then I wouldn’t want to get dressed up and pose for photographs for 8 hours everyday (there goes my modeling career…). I have some really nice photographs from it, so I am quite happy with the experience. I think Watabe Wedding is a fine company, in the business of photography. Their service was great, their staff was attentive, and the photos and album are beautiful. The sets and props at Watabe Wedding definitely showed some wear, but I have heard that this is the case at most studios. Anything that looked a little off in the studio was fixed in the post-processing, and the photos ended up coming out beautifully. My advice: Make sure with any photographer that you know your up-front and processing costs!

Next Up: Japan Diaries Day 16 – Pachinko Slot

Japan Diaries 2014

3 thoughts on “Japan Diaries Day 15 – Wedding Photos

  1. Lovely dresses. We had our wedding photos beind taken actually 2 years before our wedding 🙂
    For the ceremony in Finland my wife bought a dress in China as it is sooo much cheaper there compared to Europe. She paid some hundred Euros for the dress wheras in Finland she would had to pay over 4000 Euros for a very very similar dress! Just insane…

    Liked by 1 person

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