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Something Borrowed: Wedding Cakes as Symbols in Modern Japan

Walter Edwards
American Ethnologist
Vol. 9, No. 4, Symbolism and Cognition II (Nov., 1982), pp. 699-711
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the American Anthropological Association
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/644691
Page Count: 13
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Something Borrowed: Wedding Cakes as Symbols in Modern Japan
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Abstract

The incorporation of new--and especially borrowed--elements into existing rituals presents a problem for symbolic analysis: if the additions are to be understood as meaningful rather than random, it must be shown that the incorporated element has been coherently integrated into the already existing system of symbolic meanings. In order to understand one example of a borrowed element, the Western-style wedding cake in modern Japanese weddings, this paper begins with an examination of the symbolic distinctions operative in a variety of contexts of Japanese culture. It concludes that the cake can be seen as coherently integrated in terms of these distinctions into the wedding ritual, as a symbol of fertility. [symbolic anthropology, semiotics, marriage rites, ritual change, Japan]

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