Thursday, September 2, 2010

Largest number of people by end of life wins!

I would think that in most western cultures a funeral is a quite private affair and a place where the family, closest friends and sometimes a few close work colleagues say their final farewell to the deceased. With the exception of royalty and celebrities this is probably the normal route on guests to a funeral.

In Japan, things are quite different though... First I should probably say that I am in no way an expert on Japanese funerals and my competency is basically limited to me participating in one funeral and not much else here in Japan so I make no claims to any detail knowledge.

Here, funerals are not the same intimate family affairs, in fact, the more people you can gather up at the funeral the more important of a person you were. A year or so earlier, the mother of one very important customer (a quite influential local health care bureaucratic administrator) passed away quite suddenly at a respectable age of ~80 something. From work, me and a few other colleagues had a relatively close working relationship with this man, and the company had worked with him since many many years ago, but for obvious reasons, the relationship was limited to work and not involving his mother.

However, due to the close relationship between this man and our company, it was deemed suitable that a bunch of us attended the funeral and in Japan, this is a quite speedy affair with the funeral taking place just a few days after the death. In this case, with the death taking place on a Thursday evening and a funeral hastily arranged for Saturday morning, this meant that I had to get my sorry ass on one of the first bullet trains in the morning into the countryside of Japan to attend the funeral of a person I had never met, had no relation to but still needed to attend to represent the company and show our support to the son, our customer.
As the family were a bit of local VIPs in their little town, everyone and his aunt attended the funeral, including a large number of people in the same position as us. From my western perspective, I found it a bit awkward to say my final goodbye's to this person (yeah, they also did the open coffin deal) who I had never met before and I wasn't really sure whether to say "hello" or "good bye" as I did my turn passing by the coffin and laying down a flower that had been given to me by some official in charge.

I don't think that this really was in my official job description to attend assorted funerals... But I guess the view is a bit different here in Japan, the more people you can scavenge up for the funeral, the more important of a person you seem like, so I took one for the team I guess.

Unless Mrs. Sunshine and Baby Sunshine will keep my dead body locked up in a mummified state to milk the retirement money I hope that they will throw a funeral that will put that of any Pope, Emperor of Japan and/or Michael Jackson to shame with a number of random people who have never met me and couldn't care less attending!


Martin said...

I will certainly carelessly attend your funeral if i get the chance.

ThePenguin said...

I too will happily attend your funeral, especially if you let me know the date a bit in advance so I can fit it into my schedule.

aimlesswanderer said...

just make sure the wife and kid announce your funeral details on your blog, which will by that stage get a million hits a week.

Then large numbers of random blog readers may turn up, and everyone will be suitably impressed as to your importance.

Fernando said...

As aimlesswanderer said...

Make sure Mrs and baby Sunshine let all your followers know when you pass away so I can get my stuff sorted, get a plane ticket and throw a flower on top of your coffin and say "hello" and "goodbye"

You will die a rockstar in japan...many lousy j-pop will envy you

Rydangel said...

that's nothing. in america,usually at black funerals we have "professional mourners" usually older women who scan the obituaries for local funerals to attend. they show up weeping and wailing dressed in black wearing a hat and veil. they also like to testify. during the segment where friends and family of the deceased share a few words(usually a time limit of 3 minutes per speaker is set)about the departed. they will get up and testify about how God is good,and tell about all the trials and tribulations he has seen them through. mind you they don't know the deceased or anyone in the family. they usually go over the time limit preventing actual friends and family from speaking. they also like to "get happy" this involves them being caught up in the holy spirit and requires them to jump up down, shout "praise Jesus","hallelujah" or "Glory to God" and in extreme cases dance and twirl in the aisle or run around the church. they like to have someone hold them back so they can scream and shout before collapsing and being carried out. i had always thought that the professional mourner was an urban legend until one showed up at the funeral of my Great-Aunt. Everyone in the family kept asking who that crazy lady was. We were so shocked when she said" I read about the funeral in the paper and rushed right over so I can testify." But the most bizarre funeral I ever attended was the funeral of one of my co-worker's husband.He was executed gang style.(shot in the back of the head, point blank). He was robbed at the ATM. It was in Atlanta's 4th ward(ghetto) and there was a line going out the church and around the block to get inside. While waiting in line to get in, people were drinking 40 oz(beer) smoking blunts(weed rolled in cigar casings), they were checking people with metal detectors and some had to go put their guns in the car. some of the deceased friends poured a drink out on the grave at the cementary. I was scared the entire time and regretted voluntering to bring a dish and represent the people from my job. I just wanted a half-day at work with full pay. I had never seen a gangster funeral before and I hope I never do again.

Rydangel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
aimlesswanderer said...

I think traditional Chinese funerals are similar, in that the more people who turn up the better. More people and flowers = more respect. The traditional mourning colour is white, which is a bit of a clash with Western tradition.

I haven't been to a big traditional one, but suspect they are similar in many respects to what you experienced.

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