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Japanese wake custom 2019/8/23 14:00
My Japanese friendfs mom is critically ill. If she passes, I plan to fly over to Tokyo to condole with the family. What is the custom for a Japanese wake \ how many days is it held, are there viewing hours, what does a visitor do during the wake?
Thanks for guidance on this.
by Gigi (guest)  

Re: Japanese wake custom 2019/8/23 20:38
The little bit of direct experience I have suggests to me that these days, arrangements are highly variable. In the two death observances I was involved in, there wasn't a wake in either case. There were funerals at a funeral home, followed in one case by a cremation ceremony that only the closest family members attended. (Count yourself lucky if you don't have to be a part of one of those.) I don't know what percentage of families go the full-blown traditional route with an in-home wake and large funeral these days, but it doesn't really matter. Some do, and some don't. If and when you get the word that your friend's mother has passed, at that time hopefully you can get more information on arrangements.

If I might make a practical suggestion, if you are anticipating the possible need to fly to Japan on short notice for some sort of mourning ritual, then figure out in advance what you are going to wear. If you don't already own a suitable black dress (the name Gigi suggests you are female?), then either buy one (possibly you can return it if the lady happily pulls through) or figure out where you can quickly obtain one, and have requisite accessories (black shoes, handbag; a short pearl necklace is also very conventional). Depending on how traditional the family is and how closely connected you are to it, you actually might be able to get away with pants (seriously), but I can't guarantee that. You can get a sense of what is worn at these events by doing a Google image search on r (mofuku, the Japanese word for mourning garb). As a foreigner, I think you will be given a certain amount of leeway and as long as you make a decent effort you probably won't upset anybody, but if you dress too far out of the norm it could be upsetting to some people.

I don't know if this is helpful or not, but good luck to you in your situation.
by Kim (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Japanese wake custom 2019/8/24 14:24
I must say the wake in Japan is a formal ceremony rather than really an opportunity to spend time with the bereaved family – usually wake is just one evening, and the next morning there will be funeral service, immediately after which there will be cremation (the last part will be attended usually only by the direct family and close relatives).

Assuming it will be done in a Buddhist manner, and that it is a small-scale family plus friends ceremony, I will outline a common proceeding with approximate time as well. I saw off my own mother a few months ago.

16:00 – relatives and friends/attendants start showing up at the funeral hall, write their names into the visitorsf book and offers the money of condolence; viewing
17:00 – wake begins: the funeral home ceremony master announces that the priest is entering; begins the Buddhist prayer service; the attendants will be guided to come to the front to burn incense and offer prayers
18:00 – either the head of the bereaved family might give a short of speech of thanks, or the funeral home ceremony master announces the closing of the wake, after which the attendants will be guided to a dining hall within the funeral home, where usually people stay to eat sushi and other pre-cooked food and talk with the bereaved family and other relatives. Often the head of the bereaved family walk from one table to another pouring drinks to say thanks.
Maybe after an hour, an hour and a half, people leave, so by 19:30 or so, people would have left.

The next day the funeral might be from around 10:00, 11:00; after another Buddhist prayer session, the family & close relatives go attend the cremation.

Soc you can see that apart from the time gbeforeh the wake and the short dining afterwards, there isnft really plenty of time to talk with your friend. Particularly in case the friend is the head of the ceremony – which I was at my motherfs wake/funeral, as my dadfs been gone a few years and I am the only child – she would be busy. If you go, I am sure your friend will appreciate the thought, but the time you can spend with your friend might be limited. Unless you have been very close with her parents, you might consider visiting later to spend time, possibly after 49th day since the passing. This is because until the 49th day the family is supposed to be in initial mourning, and also would be busy taking care of some city hall-related paperwork and things.

Actually when one passes, the wake/funeral often tends to be scheduled for the Friday/Saturday immediately afterwards. Another thought: if you managed to be there at such a short notice, that gmighth feel a bit like you were anticipating the passing. Or maybe the mother is in such a critical condition that anticipation is warranted. I donft know. This part depends on how close you have been with your friend, I guess. Best wishes for you and your friend.

For funeral, the above garment suggestion is correct; for the wake, it if ok if you come with dark suit/dress – the idea is that you just found out and grushedh to the ceremony, so if you are not fully prepared, that is fine. People come to the ceremony after work, directly from their work place for example.
by AK rate this post as useful

Re: Japanese wake custom 2019/8/24 15:24
Thank you AK and Kim.
by Gigi (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Japanese wake custom 2019/8/26 02:19
Actually when one passes, the wake/funeral often tends to be scheduled for the Friday/Saturday immediately afterwards.

This is not a typical case in Greater Tokyo today, as far as I know. There is a lack of facilities compared to the frequency of deaths, and some may have to wait for days or even can't avoid certain days of the traditional calendar that is bad luck for these occasions (such as tomo-biki).

But as suggested, generally speaking, a wake is where one rushes to, offers cash in notes that are not new (because new notes makes it look like you were expecting it), offers a quick few-seconds prayer at the alter, and either go home, or stay for the meal gathering only if you are invited at the spot.

On the other hand, the funeral will typically start during the day and lasts for a few hours, again with a meal if invited. There is a tendency that people who were closer tend to come to the funeral, sometimes to both the wake and the funeral if you are extremely close.

My understanding as a Japanese woman is that if you are going to wear accessories, it must be white or black pear earrings and/or ring and/or one-layer necklace. Accessories made of other stones or material are to be avoided. Enamel, metal, purses or bags made from animal skin are to be avoided as well.

Also note that many families nowadays just do a very simple ritual among immediate family members, to avoid the fuss. In this case, even the closest friends and relatives aren't invited and you need to honor that.

So the bottom line is, if you hear that someone has already passed away, you can ask the person who told you the passing when the funeral is. If there is one, you will be informed the schedule for both wake and funeral. Then you start preparing for it, including flight tickets.

Otherwise, it is also typical to offer to visit the home or grave to offer a prayer. If you visit the home after the family has settled down, it may comfort them. If you visit the grave on your own, you can avoid being a burden to them. In fact, visiting later requires less formality including dress code (although dark and simple clothing is expected).

Hope it helps.
by Uco rate this post as useful

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