Monday, April 02, 2012

Miscellaneous family duties

I guess I'm doing some spring cleaning today. That's not how it started out but I've been plugging away for the last couple of hours. Time to take a break!

A couple people were interested in the cemetery pictures yesterday so I thought I'd explain as far as I know (which may not be very far).

The stone monuments/gravestones, come in a few main colors... Grey, the most popular, black, and a rusty red. Traditionally gravestones were the tall blocks but often Christian graves and newer cemeteries will have the lower squat style gravestones. If you look on one of yesterday's pictures you will see that one of the gravestones was Christian. There is a small cross on the right-hand corner. During my hour and a half of searching I came across two other Christian graves in this cemetery.

Below the main stone block is a stone with two built in flower holders (they can be lifted out for rinsing) and between those is a place for burning incense. Often on top of the incense burner there is a place to leave cakes or sake or something.

Most Japanese graves are family graves which means that many ancestors ashes are interred there. (Hajime's grave just had "Ancestors" written on the main stone. The family name was hidden away below that.) The bottom most part of the grave can be pulled away and urns can be lowered inside. It doesn't take much strength to move the bottom block away and I have heard of grave robbers... but what a robber is going to do with someone's ashes, I don't know. Things like jewelry etc. are not left in the urns...

Behind the gravestones there is a stand for tall wooden poles and because the custom is to have Buddhist ceremonies in the following years after a person has passed on, which entail having a Buddhist priest come and pray for the person, a pole called a touba is erected. I suppose the many touba, which has the name of the person, the date and title of the ceremony written on it, depicts how devout the family has been in performing their ceremonial duties.

Japanese friends are often perplexed when I tell them that Americans don't have official ceremonies for loved ones who have passed on at regular intervals and during special seasons of the year. At least not ceremonies where you call in a pastor and everyone gathers in black again. I think my friends feel that the poor departed are buried and forgotten in the States. I remember when I told someone that my own father's ashes had been scattered at sea and there was no grave to visit the comment was that they felt very sorry for him... Ah well, different ways of seeing things.

Not a very cheerful topic today, but outside it is bright and shining. I guess I'll go back to cleaning house!

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