26B. Kosho: The Wedding

The next morning after her usual chores and the morning training with Kihara Sensei, Kosho sought Jojo Sensei at her quarters. During the night she had lain awake frightened of the life she must enter against her will, and desperate not to leave the life she had become accustomed to. Her emotions were running high and chief among them was fear. Jojo Sensei immediately sensed her distress and invited Kosho into her room where they could talk and not be disturbed.

Kosho began, “What if I run away?”

“What good will that do? You will still bring un-ending shame upon your family. Better by far you should just refuse to marry.”

“So, then, I should just marry a man I do not know?”

“Perhaps, you lack trust in your parents. They only want the best for you. They will not select a man who lacks character, name or heritage. Besides, before you marry him he must nenki-muko according to custom.”

“What is nenki-muko?”

“Oh, you don’t know. I am sorry. Your fiancee must live with your parent’s in their house for between one and five years to help them and to prove to them that he is a worthy son-in-law and potential husband, although your parents will have to pay him something to keep the honor of his family. He must behave like a good son or he will be dismissed. If he fails to do so the betrothal is cancelled. If he succeeds you can rest assured that he is an honorable man. Do not even be surprised but that your father will send him here to this dojo and to Kihara Sensei and to me to prove his martial conduct and prowess. At such time you may meet him and observe his conduct.”

“What if you or Sensei don’t like him?”

“If Kihara Sensei or I say ‘iie (no)’ the wedding is cancelled. The man must be approved in conduct and in prowess. If he is not, then your family would be shamed. They will not allow a marriage for you with anyone except the highest standards of heritage, conduct and fighting ability. If I observe any conduct which is not befitting your family name I will stop the marriage and save your parents honor. Only the finest will marry you.”

“But what if I don’t like him?”

“They tell me that if his behavior is excellent you will come to change your mind. However, if he treats everybody else well, but not you, you should talk to Kihara Sensei, me or your father immediately. Until the first child is born, there is no marriage, and you are free to return to your home, with or with-out child in your womb. Your father most certainly will not allow the marriage if you are not properly treated.”

“But what will happen when the child is born and I have no husband?”

“Your father will treat the child as his child. Your husband retains no obligation nor privilege. Your father and mother become your child’s father and mother. But if you have a wedding and bear a man’s child in his house, then you are married and may not return to your father’s home. Your only recourse then is to go to the enkiridera.”

“What is the enkiridera?”

“The enkiridera is a temple. It is also called the Tokei-ji. It was founded by one of the great shogun Minamoto Yoritomo’s women-in-waiting and later given imperial approval as a refuge for battered wives. (Aside: Is this the earliest reference to a battered wives home in history? I really don’t know but I have never heard of an official shelter earlier than 1200AD. It was established in 1200 AD and given sanction by the emperor in 1285. It was specifically for buke and kuge (royalty) women who wanted to divorce their husbands usually because of domestic violence. Does anyone know of an earlier shelter any place in the world specifically for battered wives? [response requested if you do]) If you choose to escape to the enkiridera you must stay there for two years at a minimum. If you stay for at least two years the chief-priestess will give you a document proving your dedication not to be married. It is legal separation. You then are entitled to half your husband’s wealth. On the other hand, you and your father’s army may have to fight for it, if your ex-husband doesn’t want to part with it.”

“So, then, I can get out of a bad marriage?”

“Yes. It is easy before the birth of your first child for you aren’t really married. But afterwards it will take at least two years. And remember your children must stay with their father after they are born in his house. They are non-negotiable if born in his house. If born at your father’s house or at the enkiridera they remain with you for life.”

“So, then, where could I go after the enkiridera?”

“A father is required by imperial sanction to provide shelter for his daughters that are certified as unmarried by the priestess of the enkiridera. All fathers I know consider it a privilege to have a daughter return home under imperial sanction. The trouble is that your husband’s family receives an insult by your leaving in the first place. If anyone in the family catches on that you might try to escape to the enrikidera the whole family may partake in binding or imprisoning you. To avoid the shame even your mother-in-law may accompany your husband in an effort to prevent your escape. But once you get to the enkiridera your husband’s family is placed under imperial sanction not to try to get you back. Your husband may be killed by temple guards for as much as appearing at the temple. No men are allowed entrance by imperial decree. If he storms the temple and takes you by force, the shogun and allies will besiege him at his home. That means war. It has been done in the last century but the Shogun completely decimated the husband’s family in the war, took the family land and gave it to his own loyal retainers. The husband’s family name was completely wiped out. Husbands are not likely to try again. The cost has proven too great.”

“I know it seems silly to ask, but what if my husband doesn’t like me? Can he divorce me?”

“Only by mutual consent can he easily divorce you. He may unilaterally repudiate you as his wife only if you are sentenced for a major crime against the people. If you murder someone or commit arson, the townspeople may pronounce you hinin or eta (outcast where the person loses all civil rights and who usually has to live by grave digging, tanning skins or refuse collection). After such pronouncement your husband may then repudiate you and has no responsibility to remain with you or support you. Of course, If you do nothing wrong your husband may still leave you but remain married to you and support you and your family at any time for any reason. He must always support you or die or give up his good family name as long as you two are married.” (Aside; of course this was the ideal but not always the real situation.)

“Do you like being married?”

“I have been married for more than 50 years. I really don’t remember what it is like not to be married. I was married when I was only twelve years old. I have struggled with my husband and he has left me several times, only to return. He has faithfully supported the family and acted honorably all his life, even thru the times we didn’t get along well. I cannot imagine what life without him would be like, and I wouldn’t want to try. Yes, Kosho, I like marriage, arranged as it was more than 50 years ago when I was but a child. My family did themselves honor by picking the man they did for me. I could have asked for no better husband.”

As Kosho approached the wedding room she was dressed in red silk. Her mother attended her as they passed under the broad gingko tree where Kosho had hung prayer flags with Kosako’s and her name written together. These flags were welcomes for the groom’s family. They signified that Kosho had invoked the power of the gods to bless the marriage. The tree streamed with hundreds of red banners, every one of them made and placed by Kosho’s own hands.

Inside the room there were only the closest relatives of the bride’s and groom’s family; parents, siblings and their children. The only other person present was a Shinto priest, whose job was to invoke the gods and beg for protection for the young couple. Marriage was considered a family affair. No guests were allowed at the ceremony itself. Kosho began by pouring a small cup of steaming hot sake and then replacing the kettle. Kosaku then picked up the kettle and poured another cup of sake, but this one was closest to Kosho. In formal ritualized manner they each drank the cup of sake poured by the other person. This went on until each had drunk three cups of sake. Luckily only a small quantity was placed in each cup. They then served each other’s parents a cup of sake. The ceremony was ended; no sermon, no promises, no kiss, no presentation, no music.

Outside the guests waited the young couple. The couple were seated formally at the head of a (low) table and were served a feast under the paper lanterns which decorated the courtyard. The guests began to eat only after the young couple had eaten and taken another drink of sake.

The families of the bride and groom, being well-to-do buke, had invited many people to the reception dinner. Sake flowed prolifically, as was the custom during wedding receptions in those times. Inappropriateness and minor insults were ignored and people just enjoyed themselves freely. No one dreamt of reproaching any tipsy offender. The night was one of celebration and joy although the dancing did get a bit wild and the songs were sometimes a bit licentious and the pleasantries were often bawdy, and occasionally a man or woman got a bit lusty. The spirit of the night, however, was that it was all in good fun. If necessary tomorrow they could make apologies but tonight was the escape from the cares, worries and woes of a country constantly at war.

The banquet was long. The food was plentiful. Late into the night the gaiety went on. No one seemed to care or even notice that the young couple had disappeared hours before. It was quite normal. But in the morning a few people staggered home in the sunlight, singing still, but knowing that the day of celebration had passed.

The marriage was complete when Kosho delivered a baby girl the next summer. The baby was given the name Masaka after the wife of Yoritomo-sama. She was born in the room-of-confinement at the home of Kosako and delivered by a midwife who everyone knew as Jojo Sensei.