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My Japanese Wedding

One day I casually asked Carl if there was a small Shinto temple in the neighborhood. He said he thought there was and asked our publicity man to find a small temple where Pat and I could get married.

The studio media wheels came alive.

Carl later asked if I had any pictures of Pat. I had an 8-by-10 that I’d taken myself; it was in a frame in my rooms. He had seen the picture, I had just never identified her and he was too polite to ask. I handed him the photo.

"Why do you want it?" I asked.

"For the newspapers. They want a picture of your future bride. Also, I should tell you that certain arrangements are under way."

"Certain arrangements?"

"You remember the day I showed you the Haian Shrine?"

"Do I! Biggest Shinto temple in the world. My God, you could put three St. Peter’s Basilicas in the front courtyard."

"It is also the wedding chapel for the royal family."


"Royal weddings are held only at Haian Jingu, as from the days when Kyoto was the capital of Japan. The studio is seeing if we can have your wedding there."


"Also, the kimono shop that has made your yukatas, tanzen, and howri (a cotton kimono, wool outer kimono, and three-quarter length wool outer garment for outdoor wear) would like the honor of presenting you and your bride with wedding kimonos, for the use of your name and picture in Japan for the coming year."

Carl told me that the kimono shop had my measurements, but they’d need Pat’s. I telephoned her and explained what was going on. The shooting schedule was arranged to give me the remainder of a week off after the wedding.

On our wedding day, Pat and I were taken by chauffer to the kimono shop, where two dressing rooms awaited us. I was ready in half an hour, dressed in formal, black silk kimono and a white silk kimono beneath it, with just the white collar showing. For the ceremony, I also wore (over the lower part of the kimonos) a dark brown, heavy-bodied silk, multi-pleated, split skirt. It took two-and-a-half hours for three women to dress Pat in layers of kimonos and tied-on padding and do her makeup — white powdered face with circles of rouge on each cheek, dabs of rouge at the knuckles.

The Japanese bride wears a black wig with a white paper hat attached (supposedly to hide her horns) and walks with her head tilted down in shyness. Pat told me later that she did so, too, not out of shyness but because the wig weighed eight pounds.

We were driven, each in our own limousine, from there to the curb at the Haian shrine. As the doors of our cars were opened and she was assisted out, a newlywed young Japanese couple with a dozen attendants came tripping toward us from beneath the giant red tojii (gateway). They stopped and gazed at us. We, in turn stopped and looked at them. They were attired as the perfect British-American bride and groom, he in morning suit with striped trousers, ascot and winged collar, and she in full-blown white gown. They stared and we stared; it couldn’t have been more than a few seconds. Then, we all bowed slightly to each other and went our own ways.

The Japanese marriage ceremony has a singular beauty in its simplicity. It was concluded by one of the four priests (all dressed in white robes) who handed me a shallow, white clay dish of sake. I drank a sip from it and handed it back. He then handed it to Pat who sipped from it and returned it to him. A smaller dish was given to her to partake from, then handed to me for a sip. After a final prayer, we were escorted separately out of the hall by the Nagatas with the rest of the entourage following. The entire ceremony didn’t last more than twenty minutes.

Pat was whisked away and I was relieved of the split skirt in my waiting room, then, with my male cortege, went to the large hall where a reception was being held for almost a thousand people. Half an hour later Pat appeared in her usual swept-up hairdo, white makeup removed for something more natural, and an entire new wardrobe of several layers of kimonos. The outer one had a beautiful design of cranes. I hoped the kimono shop would get enough business out of their deal with me to make that day worth it to them. All three sets of clothing are now owned by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. I was told they’re valued at considerably more than thirty five-thousand dollars.

During my extended visit to Japan I became acquainted with koi, the bright vari-colored carp. The Japanese have made an art form of the species. One would never think of a fish in terms of intelligence, but of all species of water breathers, koi are in the top three as to intelligence. Today, my koi readily recognize me and distinguish between me and others, as well as identifying my foot fall as I approach our pond. If someone else is with me whom they don’t recognize, they’ll be a little skittish and back off until I put a hand in the water. In a few seconds they’re swimming around, sucking at my fingers to let me know they’re hungry, and enjoying the back and tummy tickles I give them with my fingers. Pretty soon they’ll accept the stranger.

My introduction to koi came at the urging of Yoshikawa’s manager, Mr. Tanaka. He directed my driver to a silk factory at the edge of town, and instructed me what to ask for. I found a store at the front that sold ready-made silk kimonos. Behind the shop was a huge, plain, sunlit room in which men and women worked at large hand-operated wooden looms, making beautiful obi (the wide belt) of silk, with pure silver and gold thread. I have no doubt that Pat’s wedding obi came from there.

I asked a young lady for a piece of fu, a bread made of rice flour that resembles a thin French baguette. She broke off a seven-inch piece from a two-foot long loaf and I followed her out through the rear doors that looked on a pond about two acres in size. She bid me step on a large flat rock that jutted out into the pond a few feet, then, standing just behind me she clapped her hands three times and we waited. Soon the water was swirling with reds and blacks-and-whites, all the fish about three feet long. I was told by my guide that they can live well past a hundred years.

She broke off a small bit of fu from the piece I was carrying and leaned down to the pond holding her fingers with the fu about eight inches above the water. A koi rose straight up and sucked the fu from her hand as it slid back (they have no teeth). I tried it, and another fish took my offering. The young lady departed leaving me with my new-found friends. By the time I’d broken off a few dozen pieces of fu and fed the flock, I was hooked on what the Japanese call nishikigoi.

The film finished and we said our good-byes with the necessary sayonara gifts. On our first evening back in Tokyo, we went to dinner with Nick, Jack, and Chieko.

Over cocktails, Jack asked if I wanted my money. For a moment I didn’t understand him, then I remembered all the yen I’d been handing him every two weeks or so when I’d spend a Saturday night in Tokyo. He reached into his inside jacket pocket and took out a fat business envelope.

"Here y’go," he said smiling.

I felt it. It was a good half-inch thick and I figured it was fifties and twenties. When I opened the envelope, there was nothing but hundreds. "How much is in here?" I asked.

"A little over seven thou," he answered. "Since you and Pat are taking a round-the-world cruise on your way home, it ought to come in handy."

We cruised to thirteen countries in five months. My agent never knew how to contact me on the ship and it turned out to be the honeymoon/vacation of a lifetime.

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