Practical thoughts on Japanese funerals

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In the past three years I have been to three friends’ funerals. All three were tragically young, each time it broke my heart, and I really do not want to make a habit of it. I’ve said this before in regards to my own dad’s death, but even though it is something extremely unfortunate, death is a normal part of life, and for me it is a stark reminder to do the things you always said you would.

At my dad’s funeral, it was a colourful affair. The only people wearing black were me and my wife as we were led to believe this is normal from watching TV and movies. Everyone else was wearing extravagant clothing to celebrate life rather than commiserate over death, which is something I can get behind. Japan is still very much traditional, and black is still very much the only acceptable colour (besides white). All three times I had to borrow a black tie from my brother-in-law. You’d really think I’d learn my lesson and go buy one, but I really don’t want to.

There are some other interesting points about funerals in Japan, one of which is that you don’t take the route you took to the funeral home on the way back to try and make any spirits that stick to you lose their way. You’ll also be given a small sachet of salt to throw over your shoulders as a purification for before you go back inside your house. On special occasions in Japan such as weddings, it is custom to give money in an envelope in the form of pristine notes that haven’t been folded. This is the opposite for funerals, money given should have been used somewhat.

I hope you learned something about funerals in Japan, but I really hope you don’t have to go to one anytime soon.



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Sakata City, Yamagata, Japan

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