Most Japanese funeral services are held in a Buddhist style. The following is a description of a typical Japanese funeral. There exist many variations depending on region and Buddhist sect.

On the funeral day the body is cremated. The guests take a small meal during that time in the crematorium. Afterwards, the relatives pick the bones out of the ash and pass them from person to person by chopsticks.

The actual funeral ceremony is then held by Buddhist monks according to Buddhist rituals. Many guests are present at this ceremony. Each of them will pay about 20,000 yen to the relatives and receive a small gift in return. After the end of the ceremony, another meal is held among the close relatives.

The urn is put on an altar at the family's house and kept there for 35 days. Incense sticks (osenko) are burned there around the clock (special 12 hour sticks for the night exist). Many visitors will come to the house, burn a stick, and talk to the family. After 35 days, the urn is finally buried in a Buddhist cemetery.

Buddhist temple with cemetery

The Japanese visit their ancestors' graves on many occasions during the year: especially during the obon week, the anniversaries, and the equinoctial weeks.

There are certain things (e.g. concerning chopsticks) one should not do in everyday life because they are linked to funeral rites and death, and are, therefore, suspected to cause bad luck.

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Page last updated: June 7, 2008