IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
As we all look for more positive news, the Lemonade Stand returns to a more uplifting subject, the wedding ceremony. One of our writers enjoys the privilege of officiating this rite of passage, and today, the ceremony he uses is the first In Case You Missed It piece of the summer – Hermione
The Wedding Ceremony
There are many mysteries that are bigger than us all – is there more than one life to live? How does pain turn into laughter? Why are promises so easy to make and so hard to keep?
There are other mysteries we are eventually capable of solving – how to love and be loved, how to forgive and move on, who is in charge of what … and if being in charge really matters.
Yet the mystery that unites us all today is one of the most engaging of all. How do two people – strangers – come to love each other and be married? How do two families sometimes from separate parts of the world come to merge their blood and their dreams? How does the Universe turn, to allow such unlikeliness to unfold?
This much is clear – we are all somebody’s children, and as such we have access to knowing what it is like to be small. To be afraid of the dark and of the unknown … to be afraid of being alone.
And this much is also clear – these two people who wish to marry traveled the unknown to get here, and after this day of celebration and dancing, of good food and sacred ritual, they will once again travel the unknown, but this time they will travel together – the unknown of bodies changing, the unknown of a family growing … the unknown and passage of moving beyond ourselves.
And these fellow travelers will have our blessing because we are here to honor their rite of passage and to declare that we truly love them. This day of their marriage will always be a day of joy and celebration in our hearts, and may they always find love in their union and journey.
And to these two families merging as one, may I simply say this – you are the parents and brothers and sisters of both, and you now share a new bond in the deepest sense of the word. You will share the same blood and drink the same wine. You will eat the same bread and embrace the same spirit. You will laugh and cry and dream and hope together, and the center of this communion is alive today in the body of your love and commitment.
The Universe turned to bring two people closer, it turned to witness the moon in a star-filled darkness coming to dance before the sun … it turned to honor a dawn finding its way into the light, the image of two people offering their love.
And so this couple standing before us turns to each other to make their vow – vowing to honor life with their honesty and to respect love with their devotion, vowing to understand and nourish the family and soil from which everything grows.
And today, the Universe and this sacred marriage which emerges from its spirit, includes us all in its gift of light, bringing two separate worlds and families together, turning and traveling through space to allow their love to unfold.
I give you this ring as a sign of my love and faithfulness.
Receive this ring as a token of wedded love.
With the authority vested in me by The Internet,
I now pronounce you …
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Speaking of relationships, one size does not fit all
TOKYO — In almost every way, Akihiko Kondo is an ordinary Japanese man. He’s pleasant and easy to talk to. He has friends and a steady job and wears a suit and tie to work. There’s just one exception: Mr. Kondo is married to a fictional character.
His beloved, Hatsune Miku, is a turquoise-haired, computer-synthesized doll. After a decade-long relationship, one that Mr. Kondo says pulled him out of a deep depression, he held a small, unofficial wedding ceremony in Tokyo in 2018. Miku, wore white, and Akihiko Kondo a matching tuxedo.
In Miku, Mr. Kondo has found love, inspiration and solace, he says. He and Miku sleep and watch movies together. Sometimes, they sneak off on romantic getaways, posting photos on Instagram.
Mr. Kondo, 38, knows that people think it’s strange, even harmful. He knows that some — possibly those reading this article — hope he’ll grow out of it. And, yes, he knows that Miku isn’t real. But he says his feelings for her are. Mr. Kondo adds he plans to be faithful to Miku until he dies.
Mr. Kondo is one of thousands of people in Japan who have entered into unofficial marriages with fictional characters in recent decades, served by a vast industry aimed at satisfying the every whim of a fervent fan culture. Tens of thousands more around the globe have joined online groups where they discuss their commitment to characters from anime, manga and video games.
For some, the relationships are just for a laugh. Mr. Kondo, however, has long known that he didn’t want a human partner. Partly, it was because he rejected the rigid expectations of Japanese family life. But mostly, it was because he had always felt an intense — and, even to himself, inexplicable — attraction to fictional characters.
Accepting his feelings was hard at first. But life with Miku, he argues, has advantages over being with a human partner: She’s always there for him, she’ll never betray him, and he’ll never have to see her get ill or die.
Mr. Kondo sees himself as part of a growing movement of people who identify as “fictosexuals.” That’s partly what has motivated him to publicize his wedding and to sit for awkward interviews with news media around the globe.
He wants the world to know that people like him are out there and, with advances in artificial intelligence and robotics allowing for more profound interactions with the inanimate, that their numbers are likely to increase.
Pretend people, true feelings
It’s not unusual for a work of art to provoke real emotions — anger, sorrow, joy — and the phenomenon of desiring the fictional is not unique to Japan.
But the idea that fictional characters can inspire real affection or even love may well have reached its highest expression in modern Japan, where the sentiment has given rise to a highly visible subculture and become the basis for a thriving industry. “When we’re together, she makes me smile,” Mr. Kondo said in a recent interview. “In that sense, she’s real.”
The products for women are especially extensive. Fans can buy love letters from their crushes, reproductions of their clothes and even scents meant to evoke their presence. Hotels offer special packages, featuring spa treatments and elaborate meals, for people celebrating their favorite character’s birthday. And on social media, people post photos, art and mash notes promoting their “oshi” — a term widely used by Japanese fans to describe the objects of their affection.
For some, the relationships represent a rejection of the entrenched “breadwinner-housewife” model of marriage in Japan, said Agnès Giard, a researcher at the University of Paris Nanterre who has extensively studied fictional marriages.
“To the general public, it seems indeed foolish to spend money, time and energy on someone who is not even alive,” Dr. Giard said. “But for character lovers, this practice is seen as essential. It makes them feel alive, happy, useful and part of a movement with higher goals in life.”
While Mr. Kondo’s relationship with Miku is still not accepted by his family, it has opened other doors for him. In 2019, he was invited to join a symposium at Kyoto University to speak about his relationship. He traveled there with a new life-size doll of Miku he recently had commissioned. His talk ended in humor with what he believes are additional advantages of fictional marriage.
Always on time
Doesn’t mind waiting
Low-cost healthcare coverage
Can be disassembled
As any Jewish mother would be prone to say, “what’s there not to like?” … though it does present the question what would a grandkid look like?
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
“Most of what I really needed to know about how to live,
and what to do, and how to be, I learned in kindergarten.
Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate school mountain,
but right there in the sand box at nursery school.”
Don’t hit people
Put things back where you found them
Clean up your own mess
Don’t take things that aren’t yours
Say you are sorry when you hurt somebody
Wash your hands before you eat
Take a nap every afternoon
When you go out in the world, watch for traffic, hold hands, and stick together