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August: The Return of Souls

August is peak summer season in Japan.  We can look forward to some of the most spectacular fireworks displays and festivals in the world, ...

Tama-Reien 多磨霊園

This cemetery is located in Chofu, near Fuchu, where the largest cemetery in Tokyo is and the final resting place for millions of Japanese. 

 

The reason I visited this place was to pay homage to the late great man  Mishima Yukio, a famous playwright and author, best known for his famed suicide back in November 1970.   Another reason I was here was to help one of my girlfriends wash her family tombstone, so it was like killing two birds with one stone; pay homage to the man, and visit her folk's tomb.

(This picture is owned by me from my flickr account.)

I'm not necessarily posting this information for people to visit, just for a better understanding of where I am talking about. 

 

Cemeteries in Japan are far from gloomy, not like in North America where the mood is somber and depressing, it's like you want to get out of there as soon as possible.  The energy at most cemeteries I've been to here are tranquil and well maintained.  I made my way to Mishima Yukio's final resting spot, also General Yamamoto and a few other Japanese heroes - paid homage.  

 

When George Bush is finally laid to rest I guess we'll honor his legacy for all of his murderous campaigns throughout the Middle East - I sure as hell won't.   I used to post the exact whereabouts of plots of great Japanese people but don't anymore for fear of vandals and ignorant expats whom I would gladly beat the living shit out of for desecrating anyone's final resting spot in Japan.

 

The soul of Japan is truly the infusion of what Japan is.  It is the shrine, the temple, the Jukujo, the onsen, food, the nihonshu, Mishima, Shinto, and Buddhism...(me?).  

 

The second reason for posting this was because around July 15th through August 15, depending on the region, many Japanese return to their hometowns to visit their family cemetery plots in order to pay homage to their ancestors.  This is a Japanese Buddhist custom called Obon (お盆), which has evolved into a family reunion.  It is also the busiest time of year for domestic travel so if you're planning to come out this way avoid August.  This is the hottest and  busiest month of the year in this country.   

 

As we get closer to August my post will become more politically charged where I'll be adding a lot of personal commentary about life, politics, and history in Japan.   The usual sake and food will be there but at a minimum.  August is the time of year in Japan where a lot of history was made so if you are light hearted then be forewarned.

 

The process of honoring the dead:

 

At the tombstone you pour water over the main stone, or marble headstone.   You clean around the plot being careful not to forget to remove any dead flowers and leaves.   Even a little weeding is not uncommon.  Add new flowers, sometimes food or sake can be placed either on or next to the headstone.  Say a prayer and done. 

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