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Japanese funeral

 2016/02/04 Japanese Culture   37 Views

Japanese Modern funerals

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After death

Although Japan has become a more secular society, 91% of funerals are conducted as Buddhist ceremonies. A small table decorated with flowers, incense, and a candle is placed next to the deceased’s bed.

The relatives and authorities are informed, and a death certificate is issued. Funeral arrangements typically are made by the eldest son and are begun by contacting a temple to schedule the event. Some days are more auspicious than others, based on an old Chinese six-day lunar cycle; in particular, the second day, called tomobiki is superstitiously understood to mean “pulling your friends along with you” (tomo = friends; hiku = pull, although the original significance was different) and is therefore considered a terrible day for a funeral.

When a encoffining, a deceased female is dressed in a white kimono, and a deceased male is dressed in a suit or a kimono. Makeup may be applied. Items—such as a white kimono, a pair of sandals, six coins for crossing the River of Three Crossings, and burnable items of which the deceased was fond (for example, cigarettes and candy) are placed in the casket, which is then put on an altar for the wake. The body is placed with its head toward the north or, as a second choice, toward the west. In Buddhism, the western orientation reflects the western realm of Amida Buddha.

Wake

Held as soon as possible after death, a Japanese wake is called tsuya, lit. “passing the night”. All funeral guests wear black: men wear black suits with white shirts and black ties, and women wear either black dresses or black kimonos. If the deceased was an adherent to Buddhism, a set of prayer beads called juzu may be carried by the guests, who will also bring condolence money in special black-and-silver envelopes. The guests are seated, with immediate relatives seated closest to the front. The Buddhist priest then chants a section from a sutra. The family members will each offer incense three times to the incense urn in front of the deceased. At the same time, the assembled guests will perform the same ritual at another location behind the family members’ seats. The wake ends once the priest has completed the sutra. Each departing guest is given a gift, which has a value of about half or one quarter of the condolence money received from this guest. The closest relatives may stay and keep vigil with the deceased overnight in the same room.

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Funeral

The funeral proper, called kokubetsu-shiki, is usually on the day after the wake. The procedure is similar to the wake, and incense is offered while a priest chants a sutra. The ceremony differs slightly as the deceased receives a new Buddhist name (kaimyō; lit. “precept name”) written in Kanji. This name is said to prevent the return of the deceased if their name is called.

At the end of the funeral ceremony, the guests and family may place flowers in the casket around the deceased’s head and shoulders before the casket is sealed and carried to the elaborately decorated hearse and transported to the crematorium.

Cremation

The coffin is placed on a tray in the crematorium. The family witnesses the sliding of the body into the cremation chamber.

The relatives pick the bones out of the ashes and transfer them to the urn using large chopsticks or metal picks, two relatives sometimes holding the same bone at the same time with their chopsticks (or, according to some sources, passing the bones from chopsticks to chopsticks). Known as kotsuage , this is the only time in Japan when it is proper for two people to hold the same item at the same time with chopsticks.  The bones of the feet are picked up first, and the bones of the head are picked up last. This is to ensure that the deceased is not upside down in the urn.

Grave

A typical Japanese grave is usually a family grave consisting of a stone monument, with a place for flowers, incense, and water in front of the monument and a chamber or crypt underneath for the ashes.

The date of the erection of the grave and the name of the person who purchased it may be engraved on the side of the monument. The names of the deceased are often but not always engraved on the front of the monument. When a married person dies before his or her spouse, the name of the spouse may also be engraved on the stone, with the letters painted red. After the death and the burial of the spouse the red ink is removed from the stone. This is usually done for financial reasons, as it is cheaper to engrave two names at the same time than to engrave the second name when the second spouse dies. It can also be seen as a sign that they are waiting to follow their spouse into the grave. However, this practice is less frequent nowadays.

Summary

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91% of funerals are conducted as Buddhist ceremonies.

Funeral arrangements typically are made by the eldest son and are begun by contacting a temple to schedule the event.

Held as soon as possible after death, a Japanese wake is called tsuya, lit. “passing the night”.

The funeral proper, called kokubetsu-shiki, is usually on the day after the wake.

The coffin is placed on a tray in the crematorium. The family witnesses the sliding of the body into the cremation chamber.

A typical Japanese grave is usually a family grave consisting of a stone monument, with a place for flowers, incense, and water in front of the monument and a chamber or crypt underneath for the ashes.
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