Last year I’d hoped to attend the Sawara Aquatic Botanical Garden’s Iris Festival but it was not to be—Chris’ deployment schedule changed unexpectedly (surprise) and it ended up being our last weekend together. This year, Chris was home and off we went! He is a good sport. To get married here during iris season you have to apply to a lottery and hope to have your name picked from a hat. The winners get crowds of onlookers snapping pictures and applauding their wedding vows. Oh, and a sampan escort through the lily pads, lotus blossoms and irises. They looked extremely happy, laughing and waving to the camera-toters lining the ponds before and after the ceremony. We’ve run into wedding after wedding almost every weekend since the beginning of May and usually the bride and groom look so serious. This couple was a refreshing change! Chris said, “Do you want to watch the wedding?” I shrugged. He said, “I’ve never seen a Shinto wedding ceremony. Besides, we can’t not watch a wedding while we’re celebrating our anniversary.” I beamed up at him for the thoughtfulness of this remark and he smiled too, pleased with himself, and said, “That ought to get me out of at least two fights.” So we squeezed around the hoards of people clicking expensive cameras at the happy couple across the irises on a platform in the middle of the garden. A long trellis of wisteria grew thick overhead, the long-gone blooms replaced with dangling seed pods. Mid-wedding I looked up at Chris, who was studying the pods contemplatively. “I bet I could pop this like a zit and hit you with a seed,” he said, cancelling out the cuteness of his previous remark. Right when the wedding started and the crowds that had been lining the banks of the pond shifted to the ceremony area, half a dozen girls in brightly colored cotton yukata (summer kimono) popped out of nowhere to pose in front of the suddenly empty-looking garden. One girl had six photographers buzzing around her and someone holding one of those silver light reflectors. They meant business. The girls seemed to like the extra attention of the garden’s many amateur photogs! Irises symbolize heroism and the similar shoubu or ‘sweet flag’ sounds like the word for warrior. Irises are also thought to give protection from storms and typhoons, which is appropriate since they bloom as we’re looking at the beginning of rainy season and typhoon season.
A side note: Japanese make up the majority of Japan’s tourists, and they really know how to make it fun. As Luke said, who wouldn’t want to wander around to temples collecting stamps and calligraphies? And this well-orchestrated canal ride is another perfect example of their well-executed tourism!