A few days ago the father of a friend of ours passed away, so we had to go into “Japanese funeral mode,” which I thought I’d write about today. First, men get out their reifuku, a standardized black suit that can be worn either to weddings (with a white tie) or to funerals (with a black tie, don’t get these mixed up!), while praying that it still fits since the last time they wore it. You arrive at the funeral home and sign the register before making a cash gift of between $50-$500 depending on your relationship to the deceased, enclosing the money in a special envelope you can buy at 7-11. Depending on local customs you’re supposed to use old, worn bills, since giving crisp, new bills implies you were actively preparing for the person to die. During the ceremony, the bozu (Buddhist priest, no relation to the stereo company) will utter incantations and read off a list of the deceased’s lifetime accomplishments, then everyone lines up to bow to the bereaved family and make an offering of incense. Every gift in Japan must be countered with a “return gift” (お返し o-kaeshi), and as you leave you’ll be handed a large bag containing sake, instant coffee and towels. There’s also a packet of salt, which you open and throw all over your shoulders and legs before crossing the threshold into your home, which purifies your body and keeps out any dead spirits who might have followed you home.
A sudden funeral in Japan for a family friend.