Funeral in Japan.

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Oct 3, 2010 05:49
When I talked about funeral in Japan, my Greek friend was really interested in that. I guess it's very different from Western style.

The best way to grasp the idea of funeral in Japan may be watching the film "Departures" おくりびと. Sorry, I myself haven't seen it yet.

Funeral in Japan is carried out most commonly in a Buddhism tradition. Shinto style is more "popular" in wedding than funeral. For some reason, Buddhism is often more associated with funeral than wedding.

If one dies, the family hold a vigil ceremony on that day or the next day. That is a short version of funeral plus vigil itself. Monk chants Buddhist sutra (holy text). Attendees pray for the dead one by one with lighting a incense stick. After a supper, there's vigil. Somebody must take care of a candle light in front of the dead and keep the fire all the night.

Next day, the funeral is held. Monks chant longer Buddhist sutra. Attendees pray for the dead one by one with lighting a incense stick again.

After that, the dead is carried to a crematorium, a building in which the bodies of dead people are burned, by a special black-coloured car. The family and relatives follow the car and send the dead to the fire. One hour or so later, the dead has been burnt into bones. One after another, members of the family and relatives pick up a peace of bones with chopsticks and put it into a pot.

The bones in the pot is kept in the house for 49 days, during which the dead is believed to travel towards the another world according to Buddhist tradition. There are many different Buddhist ceremonies for specific days after the death, such as 7th day, 1 month, and 35th day etc. Among them, most important one is that for the 49 days after death. Buddhist monks visited the house and chant sutra again for the peace of the dead. It is said that Emma daio 閻魔大王 (Yama in Sanskrit), the king of the hell, decides whether the dead should go to the heaven or the hell on that day.

After this ceremony, at last the pot of bones is put under a tomb stone. In Japan, burying the dead body without burning is strictly banned by law. That is a felony crime. One good thing about this is that you won't see zombies in this country.