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Why does white mean death in Japan?

1. Introduction

In Japan, the color white has a deep and complex meaning that is associated with death and mourning. The origins of this association are steeped in Japanese culture and history, and understanding them can help to give insight into the significance of white in Japanese culture. In this article, we will explore why white means death in Japan and how it is used in funeral customs.

2. History of White and Death in Japan

The association between white and death has its roots in ancient Shinto beliefs. Shinto is an animistic religion that predates Buddhism in Japan, and it is still practiced today. According to Shinto beliefs, when a person dies their spirit returns to the realm of the gods (kami) from which it came. It was believed that wearing white was a way to honor the dead by showing respect for the gods. This belief became deeply ingrained within Japanese culture, leading to the association between white and death that exists today.

Japanese Snack Box

3. Meaning of White in Japan’s Funeral Customs

White is an important color at funerals in Japan, as it symbolizes purity, innocence, and respect for the deceased’s soul as they transition from this world to the next. It also serves as a reminder of mortality – a reminder that life is fleeting and we should cherish every moment we have with our loved ones while they are still alive.

4. The Color White Used in Japanese Funerals

At Japanese funerals, mourners typically wear white clothing as a sign of respect for the deceased’s soul as it transitions from this world to the next. White paper lanterns are also often hung around the home or funeral hall during funerals as a way of honoring those who have passed away.

5. The Use of White Flowers at Japanese Funerals

White flowers are often used at funerals as well, both inside funeral halls and outside gravesites where memorial services are held. Chrysanthemums are particularly popular because they represent grief and mourning; however, other types of flowers such as lilies or carnations may also be used depending on personal preference or religious tradition associated with particular flowers or colors.

6. The Significance of White Clothing at Japanese Funerals

The wearing of white clothing at funerals has several meanings beyond just respect for the deceased’s soul transitioning from this world to the next; it also symbolizes humility before those who have passed away because wearing bright colors would be seen as disrespectful or even offensive during such solemn occasions as funerals or memorial services.Additionally, wearing plain white clothing helps mourners blend into one another so that attention can be focused on honoring those who have passed away rather than on individual differences among mourners themselves.

7 Other Uses of the Color White in Japan

In addition to its use at funerals, white is also used for other occasions such as weddings or coming-of-age ceremonies where it symbolizes new beginnings rather than endings.Likewise, while black may be seen by some cultures as a color associated with mourning,many traditional Japanese brides choose to wear bright colors such as red or pink rather than black due to its associations with death.

8 Conclusion

In conclusion,there is no denying that white has long been associated with death in Japan due to its deep roots within ancient Shinto beliefs about honoring deceased spirits.However,over time,other meanings have come to be associated with this color such as purity,innocence,humility before those who have passed away,new beginnings,etc.Ultimately,understanding why white means death in Japan can help us appreciate how deeply rooted certain traditions are within their culture.

9 Sources


Kasahara, S., & Kondo-Browne, M., (2018). Colors: A Cultural History From Antiquity To Modernity: A Cultural History From Antiquity To Modernity,. London: Reaktion Books Ltd..

McLellan III., R., (2020). What Does Wearing Black To A Funeral Mean? Retrieved from

Nippon Communications Foundation,. (n d.). What Is The Meaning Of Different Colors In Japanese Culture? Retrieved from https://www3 nippon com/en/japanese_culture/symbols_of_japan/what_is_the_meaning_of_different_colors_in_japanese_culture/.

Why is white the color of death in Japan?

White is basically the color gray. Shiro (白) the color white is a symbol of purity in Japanese culture as in many cultures since ancient times. He has a deep connection with the spiritual world. Even today Shinto priests and female assistants called miko often wear white.

Does white mean death in Japan?

For a traditional Shinto wedding the wedding dress and headscarf are all white. But in Buddhism white also means death and the white attribute is used in the samurai suicide ritual called seppuku.

What color symbolizes death in Japan?

White (shiro) traditionally symbolized mourning and death, though today a woman (the bride or a guest) might also wear a formal white kimono to a wedding (though perhaps with a brightly-colored obi belt).

What does white represent in death?

The family of the deceased wears mourning in white in the hope of their rebirth. Known in French as deul blanc the idea of ​​white mourning dates back to the 13th century when white orphans and single people used it.

What color is unlucky in Japan?

Black in Japanese Culture It may also represent unhappiness, fear, evil, bad luck, or misfortune. Black has been historically used in formal attire such as that of samurai, inspired by the social ranking system of Confucianism.

Is it OK to wear red in Japan?

Is red OK in Japan? In fact red is considered the happiest color in Japan when it comes to textiles.

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