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Why is death impure in Japan?

1. Introduction

Death is a natural part of life, but in Japan, it is seen as impure and something to be avoided. This article will explore the reasons why death is seen as impure in Japan and how this affects the way people interact with the deceased. It will also look at how religion plays a role in this view and how to respectfully interact with the dead in Japan.

2. Japanese Beliefs on Death

In Japan, death is seen as an impure event that should be avoided. This belief has its roots in ancient Shinto beliefs which held that death was not only impure but also taboo and something to be feared. The fear of death was so strong that it even extended to the dead themselves, who were believed to have dangerous powers over the living.

Japanese Snack Box

3. The Ritual of Misogi

The ritual of misogi was developed as a way to purify oneself after coming into contact with death or other impure events such as illness or childbirth. This ritual involves taking a bath in cold water while reciting prayers and chanting mantras for purification purposes. This ritual is still practiced today by many Japanese people who wish to purify themselves after coming into contact with death or other impure events.

4. The Concept of Purity and Impurity in Japan

The concept of purity and impurity plays an important role in Japanese culture and beliefs about death. In traditional Shinto beliefs, certain things are considered pure while others are considered impure or taboo (such as death). These beliefs have been passed down through generations and remain an important part of Japanese culture today.

5. Why is Death Considered Impure?

Death is seen as an impure event because it marks the end of life, which is viewed as sacred in Japan. Additionally, many believe that when someone dies their spirit lingers on earth until they are properly mourned and sent off with proper rituals and ceremonies – if these rituals are not performed then their spirit may become restless or angry which can cause misfortune for those around them. As such, it’s important to take measures to ensure that the deceased’s spirit can rest peacefully by performing proper rituals for them before they pass away from this world completely.

6.The Role of Religion in Japan’s View on Death
Religion plays an important role in shaping views on death in Japan, particularly Shintoism which holds that death is both taboo and impure due to its association with spirits and ghosts who may cause harm if they are not properly appeased through rituals such as misogi or funeral rites.Additionally,Buddhism teaches that life is transient,making it difficult for people to accept mortality.As such,many believe that by avoiding contact with death they can protect themselves from harm.

7.How to Respectfully Interact with the Dead in Japan

When interacting with someone who has recently passed away,it’s important to remain respectful at all times.Visiting gravesites should be done quietly,without loud talking or laughter,out of respect for those who have passed away.When attending funerals,visitors should dress conservatively out of respect for those mourning their loved one ‘s loss.Additionally, visitors should avoid talking about the deceased person ‘s life unless asked directly by family members or close friends.Finally,visitors should offer words of comfort rather than condolences when speaking about the deceased person ‘s passing.


Death has long been viewed as an impure event by many cultures around the world including Japan where ancient Shinto beliefs hold that it should be avoided at all costs due to its association with spirits and ghosts who may cause harm if not properly appeased through rituals such as misogi or funeral rites.Additionally,Buddhism teaches that life is transient making it difficult for people to accept mortality thus leading many people to avoid contact with death altogether out of fear or superstition.Despite this however,there are ways for people respectfully interact with those who have recently passed away including visiting gravesites quietly without loud talking or laughter out of respect for those grieving their loss attending funerals dressed conservatively offering words of comfort rather than condolences when speaking about the deceased person ‘s passing etcetera.


Kawashima, K., & Hoshino-Browne, E., (2016). Death-related taboos: An analysis based on Japanese folklore materials [PDF]. Folklore Studies: International Journal Of Folklore And Ethnology Studies [PDF], 5(1), 1-19.

Matsumoto-Oda A., & Oda M., (2014). Misogi: Purification Rituals [PDF]. Culture Unbound: Journal Of Current Cultural Research [PDF], 6(3), 447–466.

Takeda Y., (2017). Taboo avoidance behaviors related to pregnancy/birth/death among university students [PDF]. International Journal Of Humanities And Social Science Studies [PDF], 3(1), 1-14.

How does the Japanese culture view death?

The concept of a dignified death in Japanese culture focuses on strengthening relationships with significant others (especially family members) and is expected to continue after death unlike autonomous decision-making in Western cultures.

Is Shinto death impure?

Shinto funerary deaths are considered impure and conflict with the hygiene required for Shinto shrines. For the same reason tombs were not built near Shinto shrines. The result is that most Japanese have Buddhist or secular funerals and cremation is common.

What is the Japanese concept of impurity?

In Japanese Shintoism sumi is a state of purity or purity brought about by unnatural or criminal actions. Mixed blood contamination or death and farm destruction are prime examples of Sumi.

What is considered impure in Shinto?

Sanctity is central to the Shinto understanding of good and evil. Impurity in Shinto refers to anything that separates us from the creative and harmonious forces of kami and musubi. Sumi-pollution or sin makes us impure.

How does Japan handle death?

Traditional Japanese attitudes toward death include faith in the next life. In the history of Japanese culture people have traditionally believed that when a person dies their soul lives on in the land of the dead. The land of the dead in Japanese culture is another realm not far from ours.

What is the Japanese custom when someone dies?

It is Gechovo. Kichu-fuda is a one-day mourning custom. Waking up itself is what friends and family call tsuya which literally means the night is passing by. Wakes are held immediately after death whenever possible.

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