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!