I’m going to write about cremation today. Cremation is the practice of disposing of a human corpse by burning (by Wikipedia). So, you shouldn’t read if you don’t like such a topic.
Two weeks ago, two relatives of mine passed away suddenly. One was on July 20 and another one was on 22. Since both of them were quite old, we had few tears, and we were able to say good-bye to them kind of cheerfully.
I had attended a cremation before, but that was long time ago when I was just 5 years old, and I didn’t remember much. So, this time everything was almost new for me. And each step of the service interested me.
I’d say the major religion is Buddhism in Japan. So usually people have funerals and other services by Buddhist way. In my opinion, however, most Japanese people are unconscious Buddhists and Buddhism here is not a religion, rather culture. Of course, I admit some have strong faith in Buddha, though.
In Japan it’s normal to have the deceased cremated. People say it comes originally from the fact Buddha was cremated when he passed away. But historically cremation was done before the introduction of Buddhism. From the very beginning cremation has existed in Japan and by the influence of Buddhism and space problem, the custom of cremation took root here, I think.
The rituals at the crematory
1. Attendants put flowers around the deceased who lies in the casket.
2. The casket is carried into the furnace.
3. Attendants burn incenses at alter which has a portrait of the deceased.
4. Attendants go to the waiting room and wait there until the cremation is over. (While waiting, people introduce themselves and talk about the deceased.)
5. Attendants are paired up. Each pair picks a bone into a ceramic container together with long bamboo chopsticks in turn.
6. After all bones are put into the container, and it’s covered with a special sham.
★How to pick bones
1. Attendants are paired up. The nearest relative starts to put a bone into a ceramic container.
2. The bone which is put into the container first is a part of a foot.
3. Starting with a foot bone, pick from leg bones to the upper limbs bones.
4. Finally put skull into the container, forming the face.
An attendant said to me, “if you are not used to such rituals, it means you’re lucky.”