Folklore Mythology

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By Michiko Iwasaka

The eastern have ambivalent attitudes towards dying, deeply rooted in pre-Buddhist traditions. during this scholarly yet obtainable paintings, authors Iwasaka and Toelken express that daily ideals and customs--particularly loss of life traditions--offer specific perception into the dwelling tradition of Japan.

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22 Death Customs in Contemporary Japan A ghost performance on the Kabuki stage. Artist: Iijima Koga (other information unknown). 23 Ghosts and the Japanese The altar is dismantled by the mortuary and taken from the house. The ashes of the deceased are preserved in an urn, the larger fragments of bone being passed from one pair of mixed chopsticks to another, and are kept on the household altar, accompanied by a small tablet with the person's name, until the forty-ninth day ceremony, after which the urn is placed in a grave.

For example, it is possible to argue that suttee in India, far from being a barbarous practice exercised by a culture which considered life cheap, was a sacrificial action dramatizing exactly the opposite: that life is the most precious thing one 35 Ghosts and the Japanese can give. As another instance, we now recognize that suicide is probably as common in the United States as Japan (some have suggested the northern European rate is even higher); will this lead us then to argue that the West now pays less attention to the individual than it once did?

Then, on various key days like those above, he comes before the court again and again for nine more trials. On the forty-ninth day, the final verdict is handed down and the decision made as to which of six worlds (among them Hell, Animal, Insanity, Human, Heaven) the spirit must enter. The survivors, in order to obtain a milder sentence for the sinner (or to urge a pardon for someone who has received a heavy penalty), order sutras to be read. o-kyo sutra. After the immediate funeral arrangements have been taken care of, there remain the various important annual anniversaries of the death: the first, second, third, seventh, thirteenth, seventeenth, twenty-third or twenty-fifth, twenty-seventh, thirty-third, and occasionally the fiftieth and the hundredth (obviously these last are observed by descendants who probably did not know the deceased personally, but who feel an obligation to maintain proper filial relationships with the kami of their family).

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