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Do I give away my Aunt's items? 2008/3/17 10:43
I have taken care of my Aunt for the last 5 years of her life and she recently died. She left everything to me in her will. Which was just material things, no money. At her memorial service one of the Japanese elders came up to me and said I should allow her friends to come over and take something of hers (Louis Veton Purses, China, etc). He said it was a custom. I offered pictures but he said that would be an insult. Is this correct? Do I let my Aunt's friends take items from her house? I am not Japanese and do not want to offend her friends, but this does not sound right.
by Kelvin  

... 2008/3/18 08:02
Sorry to hear of your loss.

There is this custom called "katami wake," of giving friends and relatives of the deceased bits of mementos from the belongings of the deceased, after a certain period of time after the funeral, a month or two later. As the nature of the custom is to give "mementos" from that person, normally it would be like: (if you know those friends) you give a kimono to a friend of hers who you know she used to go out wearing that kimono, anyway based on personal associations and memories. The intention is not for giving away things for their actual value, and I don't think you just "let the friends come over and take things they want." I think it's more like YOU would offer things to the friends as a way to say "please keep this with you and remember her."

Of course, you would have the right to keep things you want to keep - do you have anyone whom you can trust and also know at least some of her friends (and/or relatives), that you can talk these things over and maybe help you sort out things?
by AK rate this post as useful

katami-wake 2008/3/18 12:43
To add to AK's comment, katami-wake is normally what you do among the closest family members or closest friends in order to make use of items that can still be used while providing memories.

Typically it is done only among those as close as the children. For example when a person dies, her/his sons and daughters will gather casually, look over the items, discuss who will get what, and they take them with them on the spot. It is then typically up to those sons and daughters to give away items to _their_ children (who are the grandchildren of the deceased) and so forth. Where children are not present, I suppose the closer people will have the rights instead.

But customs differ depending on the region or family. A quick internet search even gives me information saying that it would be impolite to offer katami-wake to those senior to you, unless they come to you first.

My personal opinion on your case is that, especially because you have a will, you have the right to keep everything you want. But as a human being, we can sympathise that close people might want things to keep as memories. For example, photos can be obtained anywhere, but keeping items that the decease may have touched and used will make the new owner feel like the deceased person's soul is still there with the items. So it would be nice to offer something that your aunt would have liked them to have. But the top priority still goes to you.

Generally speaking, I think we tend to give away what _the deceased_ would have wished them to have rather than what the living people wish to be given. If there are things that you remember your aunt sharing with her friends but will not be much use to you, you may want to give them away rather than to sell them to a second-hand shop. You can also let them make the choice by saying for example, "These several items have nowhere to go, so it would be an honor if you can choose one or two among them."

I have to say though that it is not rare for people to try to take advantage on the breaved family, especially when the family has little knowledge. You might want to try and get contact with your local Japanese community or any sort of free law consulting if you feel that too much is being taken away from you.

Anyway, there is no need to rush. Typically katami-wake should be done around the forty-ninth day memorial or even later.
by Uco rate this post as useful

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