Japanese Funeral 101 at the crematorium

Arriving at the crematory, the driver will  hand over the permission paper for being cremated, called “Mai Kasou  Kyokasho — 埋火葬許可書“, which is the government paper for allowing to be cremated and buried.  This paper work is filled out (usually by the undertaker) to take it to the city/municipal hall requesting the permission, noting time and date when the body will be cremated, but NOT buried. Burial is another story.

The paper work is usually set inside the urn (in 23 wards of Tokyo, urns are bought at the crematory and the undertaker brings the paper work to the front desk) to be processed. The coffin is taken on the special cart out of the hearse to the furnace. Here, if you are Buddhist, will give the last farewell by burning incense (1 pinch only) and the coffin is placed in the furnace.

Photography or video taking is NOT allowed at fron of the furnace in the crematorium. This is thought to preserve the honor of the dead and help the family to get out of the mourn. It is not a rule but a strict manner that is NOT to be desecrated.

The family are guided to a room (Tokyo, it is an option of renting a room or not, and if not, the family and guests are waiting in the hall) to wait for boned, which usually takes about 60 to 90 minutes per body. The family “usually” have a light meal since it’s about lunch time or so and wait quietly until being called.

When being called when the body is burnt (NOT TO THE ASHES but to the skeleton), key members are asked to verify the body. “Verify what?” is the question if you are keen. Then the steaming red hot skeleton is cooled. This takes another 15 minutes or so. Then rest of the family are called to pick up the bones.

While picking up the bones, the family will use special long chopsticks.
There will be two people picking up one bone and placing in the urn from each side of the body. This is the Japanese manner  where you DON’T hand food by transferring via chopsticks. It’s only done at the crematory while picking up the remains of the dead.

There are 2 customs in Japan of picking up the bones. One is picking up ALL bones and the other is just the vocal bones, since it looks like a statue of Shakamuni with grace. This will be discussed in another story.

After placing the bones in the urn, the family leaves the crematorium for another ceremony called “First 7 days”. This is done at the day of cremation and not at the 7th day of dead since it’s very hard for the relatives to join again dismissing work and school.

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