Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Japanese gavestones

A single gravestone in a Japanese cemetary

It's been said that the Japanese are an eclectic people. This is true even in their religious beliefs--they're born Shintoists, marry Christian, and die Buddhist.

Most Japanese follow Buddhist funeral customs. They are very elaborate, from the cremation of the body, to the burial of the ashes, to the tending of the graves.

With family lineage and tradition being so important to the Japanese, most of them have their ashes interned in family graves. Each person's ashes is sealed in a seperate urn and buried under a family headstone.

Re-crop of a Japanese gravestone

Behind the stone, you can see long wooden sticks with names painted in elaborate calligraphy. These are called toba, and they contain the names of each person buried under the family stone.
Tending to the graves is also a family affair. Traditionally, the Japnese visit the graves of their ancestors on two occasions: the anniversary of their death, and during Obon, which is when Japanese Buddhists believe the souls of the dead return to their homes.

When they tend the graves, they first pour water over the graves to purify them, and leave fresh flowers. On the anniversary of the death, they also replace the old toba with a new one. It is also common to leave offerings: sake, tea, cigarettes, whatever the dead person liked in life. This is so that they can come back and enjoy the things they loved while they were still alive. It's also so that they remember that their families have not forgotten about how they lived.


At 8:38 a.m., Blogger micki said...

Very nice images. I like the traditions that the Japanese hold to in their respect and love of family, even after they're gone.

At 8:49 a.m., Anonymous tore said...

What puzzles me is why everybody visits the graves during O-bon when the dead are supposed to return to their homes. There's poor dead great-granny arriving home and there's nobody there 'cause they're all at the cemetary. Great!

At 7:56 p.m., Blogger Azhar said...

Now nice angles,
the shots tell a story, your blog is more of a documentary of japan then of a photoblog, if you want to become better at photography you should try taking shots so that the shot looks as fantastic as you can make it, not so that people get a good view of what you are talking about.

At 10:26 p.m., Blogger Stardog Champion said...

Thanks for the comments folks.


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