Wednesday, June 13, 2007

My First Funeral in Japan

When I first came to Japan, I hoped to witness and experience everything about the culture. I kept a personal goal for myself, trying to see at least one wedding and one funeral before leaving Japan. Last week, I went to see my first funeral in Japan.

I don’t know why I wanted to see a funeral. When the time came to go, I actually found myself dreading it. I can’t say I enjoyed the funeral very much. After giving the matter some thought, I've concluded funerals are long, sad, awkward, boring, tedious, depressing, expensive, terribly imposing and often inconvenient. To put it bluntly, funerals are a total buzzkill. Why anyone would ever go to the trouble of arranging for such an event is something I don’t quite understand. And yet, funerals happen every day around the world almost every single time someone dies. Perhaps I’ve never been sufficiently close to a loved one who passed away to fully appreciate this human custom. However, kindness and decency requires me to be present during a friend’s time of need, so I attended to help a friend through a difficult time. And after going though it, I'm glad I did.

The funeral was held for the child of my friend and co-worker. On Saturday (when we were both planning to attend a party with our neighbors) she began having vague pregnancy complications and was rushed to the hospital, where she gave birth to Faith Hewitt two months ahead of schedule. Born premature and on a respirator, the odds were never in Faith’s favor. She died a few days later.

This particular funeral wasn’t the most traditional Japanese funeral, and is probably the shortest ceremony I will ever see in my life. We paid our respects to the deceased in a room made completely of stone.

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