Typically a Japanese funeral follows the sequence: when someone dies, they are placed to rest in their homes. The corpse was placed with the head pointing the North, copying the deathbed of Gautama, and the head of the bed is well decorated. Then the previously mentioned encoffinment process. The first night after one's death is called the Tsuya; and it is for close family and friends to remember their beloved. In the morning, a cleansing meal is served called Okiyome. The funeral is thereafter carried out where the Jukai rite also known as receipt of commandments gives the dead an opportunity to receive the Buddhist commandments, automatically making the dead a disciple of the Buddha, and the dead person is accepted into Buddha hood.
After all this, the deceased embarks on the journey to the other world as the coffin is carried out of the house and burnt in a crematorium to ashes.
Presently about 99% Japanese are cremated while only about 1% are interred. These changes in preference on the method of sending off the dead have been brought about by the Country's main religion, changes in dwelling environments and changes in technologies. During the high-growth era of the 1970s, cremation became popular outside of metropolitan areas and crematoriums were built in several places as a matter of national requirement.
Views held by Japanese on corpses
Generally the elderly Japanese do not perceive the body and soul as a duality, which is flesh and spirit. The corpse is considered a very important part and if funeral rites are not carried out, the deceased's soul will not be mourned. It is very important that the corpse is attended to and the death is mourned by as many people as possible. Additionally the corpse must be well taken care of until all rites have been carried out. The body is not just considered a vehicle or an object or a shell for the soul but it is considered an entity with a will, hopes and rights therefore the family has a responsibility to care for them, respect them and accord them a befitting farewell..
Continuation of life and death
The Japanese considered death a passageway leading to the continuation of death and life. The Japanese held contradicting ideas concerning the dead. Even though they wish for and hope that the dead resurrect, they live in fear of the spirit and the possible return of the dead founded on the Shintoist principle of impurity, as explained earlier on in the funeral rites. They believe impurity is transmissible and transferrable and that, a house that experienced a death and even those involved in handling the corpse are also impure. Therefore Japanese funerals have a combination of rites to reaffirming death, protect the dead, and prevent bad luck and curses and prevent the dead from resurrecting. Some practices invoke the spirit of the dead from having a feeling of longing; which include Ichizen-meshi a single bowl of rice given to the dead and Matsugo-no-mizu which is water given to the dead at the time of death. There are other contrasting customs like the Sakasa-buton or upside-down futon, whereby the dead persons blanket is placed facing upside-down, and the Sakasa-byobu or upside-down folding of the dead one's screen, where a folding screen is placed upside-down on top of the head of the deceased's bed, and Sakasa-mizu or upside-down water, where the water for cleaning the corpse is prepared by adding hot water into cold water rather than pouring cold water into hot water as normal. All this is done with the primary aim of separating the scary situation of death from people's day-to-day lives and also to prevent pulling others in to death.
Other customs were also used traditionally to make it impossible for the departed soul to remain in this life or to make an attempt to return to this life. They included making burial gowns without closed stitches or backstitches, and the practice of turning the coffin three times when taking it out of the house which was done in order to confuse the deceased preventing them from ever coming back home. Similarly the deceased's bowl of rice is shattered, and the deceased exits the house through an exit that is not the front door. Throwing of salt is also another practice aimed to remove the uncleanness and impurity brought about by the death. Up to now, there is the Kichu custom a 49-day mourning and grieving period, during which the family does not attend any festivities. During this period, since the family was made unclean by the death it is shunned and avoided. There is also Mochu which is a one-year period. A time when the family mourns the death of their member and remembers the departed.
In conclusion we have discussed in this assignment how traditional Japanese viewed death their traditions and their myths concerning death and all the elaborate preparations they carried out when sending off their dead relatives. Why and how all the rites were practiced. How the deceased's family had a responsibility to give the dead a befitting burial and respect them because it was assumed that the dead retained their individuality as they had it before their deaths. The idea and belief that death is a station led to a continuation and made it possible for communication between the old and the dead.
Extant literature has been devoted to the theme of old age and death in the Japanese society. This is due to the mystery and wonder that has always dogged aging and death. This is because traditionally the Japanese have treated old age and death as normal processes of life that one must accept, embrace and not to rebel against.
Kimura (1996) discussed the aspects of death and dying in Japan with a focus on the contemporary society. He notes that the contemporary Japanese society has been affected with modernisms and its technological marvels to the point that they no longer hold the same view and value regarding death. This is due to the ultramodern hospital care facilities and the current biomedical technologies. He points out that the Japanese understanding in terms of their traditional and social-cultural perspective regarding the understanding of life of a human is positive. He points out that the ancient Japanese culture admitted that death is a natural process which marks the end of life. This same idea is expressed in various phrases contained in the Zen-Buddhist scriptures. Words like "accept death as it is" as well as "life-death as one phenomenon" are just an illustration of how death has been seamlessly integrated into the common understanding of the human life as illustrated by Tomomatsu (1939).
The elder Japanese population does not in any way aspire to remain active as does their counterparts from the West. Matsubayashi (2006) in his extensive survey dubbed "successful aging," discovered that the Japanese elderly prefer to live a longer life while having a fair health. This is in sharp contracts with the Western elderly population who prioritize in staying involved in the process of life while being independent and coping with their own problems. His personal finding were therefore supported that postulated that in both cultures persons with little personal achievement goes through aging more peacefully as opposed to the ones who have high ideals. This he attributes to their frustration caused by their gradual reduction in the level of influence, mental agility and mobility.
Lester (1993) found out that Japanese who are living in households that are three-generational do have a longer life spans as opposed to the ones living in nuclear families. He however points out that the very idea of three generational households is quickly becoming extinct. He attributes this to the movement of young people to go and work on various farms that are in their countryside and also the soaring of price of land within their reach making it extremely expensive to house a three generational family under a single roof. This therefore points out to the role of urbanization and nuclearization in the reduction of the elderly age of Japanese elderly population.
Noda (1991) points out to the fact that elder Japanese population do prefer to be hospitalized since they view it as being honorable as opposed to applying for services provided by the community welfare.
In the context of the problem faced by Japan regarding its old population, Wolf (1985) points out to the fact that indeed Japan has a big problem in adjusting to the demands of its old population. The leading cause of death for the elderly in Japan is Pneumonia. This is a true indicator that a large number of them lack the basic care needed by the elderly population.