What to do at a Japanese Funeral | Funeral Etiquette

Attending a Japanese funeral can be stressful, even shocking, if you don't know what to do. The more you know beforehand the better, as you'll be able to comfort and support mutual friends and their families as is wont to do.

Varying in size and ceremony, it's safe to say that most Japanese, funerals are performed in accordance with Buddhist beliefs, although many also include Shinto rites. Here are a few tips to help see you through the experience.

For men: a black suit, white shirt, and black necktie. For women: a non-revealing black dress (should fall below the knees) or suit is standard.

The "koden", or condolence gift is standard. This monetary gift is put in a special envelope (see picture above, right), that can be purchased at larger stationary stores. The amount of the gift, which is used to help pay for the funeral, is usually between ¥5,000 and ¥30,000, depending on your relation to the deceased. If you are unsure how much to give, ask other colleagues - NOT the family of deceased.

It is customary to offer odd-number amounts (e.g. five ¥1000 notes = ¥5000; seven, nine ¥1000 notes, one ¥10,000). Take care not to leave amounts of four, "shi", which means "death" in Japanese.

There are two standard phrases used during funeral ceremonies.

"Konotabiwa, makotoni goshushosama desu." (I'm deeply sorry about your loss.)

"Okuyami moshiagemasu." (I offer my condolences)

A Japanese funeral usually includes a wake. The guests are seated, with the next of kin closest to the front. A Buddhist priest will read a sutra, and then the deceased family's members will each in turn offer incense to an incense urn in front of the deceased. The wake ends once the priest has completed the sutra. Each departing guest is given a thank you gift valued between 1/4 and 1/2 the value of the condolence money they contributed.

After the wake service has ended, visitors will continue to arrive to pay their respects, and it is considered appropriate for friends, other than very close friends, to only attend either the wake service (or visit on the night of the wake service) or the funeral, while the family stays up with the deceased in the same room or location for the night.

Here's a link to a YouTube video that briefly yet concisely explains the process: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_HG6bycveG8

I hope you find this information helpful, feel free to ask any questions in the comment section below.

by Former Deep Japan Writer

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