Learning Opportunity

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Once again, I am learning at a rapid pace. I will leave for the wake and funeral in less than two hours. I rushed to two stores today and asked a ton of questions about proper clothing and bought a few items. I went to the bank to get money to offer at the service. I searched through my dictionaries for information about the services. Fortunately, last night my girlfriend called to ease my concerns about screwing up at the ceremonies.

Proper clothing for a funeral is a black suit, white shirt, and black tie. The tie can have a pattern, but it should be black on black. If one can’t wear a black suit, then a dark color is acceptable. Gray is preferrable to brown. If a black jacket is not worn, then a black arm band is recommended.

Tonight’s ceremony appears as ‘wake’ in the dictionary, and is called otsuya (御通夜) in Japanese. There are many alternate, but similar names; although, this one seems the most common. Some ceremonies are an all-night vigil with the deceased before sending their body to be cremated. I was not told if this is all-night or part of the night. It is customary to bring an offering, called kouden (香典), in a special envelope. The offering is meant to send the deceased on their journey.

For some offerings, people go to the bank or post office and get crisp, unused bills. Today, the banks are closed, but I asked the ATM for some bills… they were not new. I shocked the only other person present by asking many questions about how to get a clean bill. At first she had the, “I can’t understand the foreigner” look on her face and tried to put me off quickly and escape. When I asked again, she realized I was using difficult Japanese terms, and relaxed to normal conversation level. She said an old bill is better for kouden. I will verify that later.

I managed to get a white shirt, black pants, black socks, and black arm band today. I will be wearing my dark brown jacket. Hopefully I won’t offend anyone. Well, I better get cleaned up and out the door. Tomorrow’s post (Sunday Soundcheck) is already scheduled, so there will be something to read in my absence. Monday is a holiday and I will have a chance to see my girlfriend. She promised to give me a big hug, which I’m sure will remind me that much is still good in this world.

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2 Responses to “Learning Opportunity”

  1. fightingwindmills Says:

    I can verify that an older bill is better. I remember learning that in our staff room when someone’s mother passed away. I hope you have a nice “umi no hi” with your girlfriend.

  2. びっくり Says:

    Yes, the used bill was correct. I was told there’s no bonus points for it being very used. Some people, when faced with a crisp bill will merely fold it in half and unfold it before sticking it in an envelope. That is considered sufficient. The reason I was confused is because gifts for good things (weddings, otoshidama, etc) are best given in crisp bills.

    I was told not to use the arm band, as that is predominantly for staff. I hope I can return that.

    It was a joy to see everyone again, but of course it was bittersweet. Afterwards, one friend took me to the onsen with her husband and we spent a long time relaxing in the mineral water.

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