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How do Japanese handle death?


The Japanese have a unique way of dealing with death, one that is deeply rooted in their culture and religion. Death is not seen as an end, but rather a continuation of life in another realm. In this article, we will explore the different aspects of how the Japanese handle death and what makes it so unique.

Shintoism and Buddhism

Shintoism and Buddhism are the two primary religions in Japan, and they both heavily influence the way death is handled. Shintoism emphasizes the importance of nature and ancestors, while Buddhism focuses on the cycle of life and rebirth. Both religions believe in an afterlife, which is why death is seen as a transition rather than an end.

Japanese Snack Box


Funerals in Japan are elaborate affairs that involve many rituals and customs. The deceased is dressed in traditional clothing and placed in a casket or urn. The body is then washed by family members before being moved to the funeral home or temple. During the funeral service, family members may offer incense, flowers, or prayers.


Cremation is the most common method of disposing of the deceased in Japan. The ashes are typically placed in an urn and kept at home or buried in a family grave. Some families also scatter the ashes in a special location that has significance to the deceased.


Graveyards are an important part of Japanese culture and are often visited by family members to pay their respects to their ancestors. The graves are typically small and simple, with a stone marker that has the name of the deceased inscribed on it.

Mourning Period

In Japan, there is a mourning period that lasts for 49 days after the death of a loved one. During this time, family members may wear black clothing and avoid social events or celebrations. It is also common to hold a memorial service on the seventh day after the death.

Obon Festival

The Obon Festival is a traditional Japanese event that takes place in August and is meant to honor the spirits of ancestors. During this time, families clean their homes and prepare food offerings for their deceased loved ones. Lanterns are also lit to guide the spirits back to the physical world.

Death Taboos

There are many taboos surrounding death in Japan, such as not using chopsticks to pass food during a funeral meal or not placing chopsticks standing up in rice. These taboos are meant to show respect for the deceased and their family.

Death Omens

In Japan, there are certain omens that are believed to indicate impending death, such as the sound of a bird tapping on a window or the sight of a white butterfly. These omens are taken seriously and may cause family members to become anxious or worried.

Near-Death Experiences

Near-death experiences are not uncommon in Japan, and those who have them often report seeing deceased loved ones or experiencing a feeling of peace and tranquility. These experiences are seen as a way for the living to connect with the dead and gain insight into the afterlife.


In conclusion, death is handled very differently in Japan than it is in Western cultures. The emphasis on nature, ancestors, and an afterlife creates a unique perspective that sees death as a continuation of life rather than an end. The customs and rituals surrounding death are deeply rooted in Japanese culture and religion, making it an important part of daily life.

What do the Japanese do when someone dies?

In Japan, most funerals involve a wake, cremation of the deceased, burial in a family grave, and periodic memorial services. Nearly all deceased Japanese individuals are cremated, according to 2007 data.

How is death dealt with in Japanese culture?

The Japanese culture values the idea of dying with dignity by fostering strong relationships with loved ones, particularly family members. Unlike Western cultures that emphasize individual decision-making, the Japanese belief is that these relationships should endure even after death.

What are Japanese death and dying practices?

In Japan, there are symbolic rituals such as using a knife or salt to keep away negative spirits, as well as cleansing and dressing the person in white kimono-style clothing. However, these practices are not commonly observed in North America.

What are the 5 stages of grief Japanese?

The psychiatrist and expert on death and dying created the five stages of grief, which include denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. These stages are useful in understanding reactions to the Bank of Japan’s decision not to provide additional liquidity to an economy that is not growing.

Why can’t you cut your hair after a funeral?

The belief exists that hair and nails are gifts from deceased parents to their children, and therefore should not be trimmed during or shortly after the mourning period following the burial. It is often recommended to wait at least 49 days before trimming them.

How do the Japanese honor their dead at home?

During Obon, the first day typically involves Japanese families cleaning their homes and preparing food offerings for their deceased relatives, called ozen. The main offerings include fruit, rice, green tea, sake, and special lotus-shaped sweets.

Death Cafes

Death Cafes have become popular around the world, and Japan is no exception. These cafes are designed to provide a safe and comfortable space for people to discuss death and dying. Participants can share their experiences, fears, and hopes regarding death, and can connect with others who are also coping with grief or contemplating their mortality.

Advance Care Planning

Advance Care Planning is becoming more common in Japan, as people are beginning to realize the importance of making end-of-life decisions before they become incapacitated. This involves discussing one’s wishes for medical treatment, life-sustaining measures, and funeral arrangements with family members and healthcare providers. By doing so, individuals can ensure that their wishes are respected and that their loved ones are not burdened with difficult decisions during a time of grief.

Modernization of Death

As Japan becomes increasingly modernized, some traditional practices surrounding death are beginning to change. For example, more people are opting for cremation over burial, and there has been a shift towards simpler funeral services. However, many core beliefs and customs related to death remain deeply ingrained in Japanese culture and continue to be practiced today.

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