Yesterday I received a fax (fax versus email in Japan -I'll save that for another post) telling me that a long time friend's mother had passed away. The wake service was being held that same night. He has been a friend for almost 30 years so of course I was going to the wake.
Then, my quandary started. The custom in Japan is to place some money into a special envelope that can be bought at any stationary store or even a convenience mart. This money is then given to someone at the reception area of the wake. I'm never sure what the proper amount of money is. Should I give ¥10,000? 20,000? 30,000?
I contacted a couple of Japanese friends to ask the amount. One thing I learned quickly is, definitely not 20,000. In Japan, for a funeral gift, you don't give even numbers so my choice was either ¥10,000 or ¥30,000 or more of course if I wanted. Since I know that for this particular family money is not an issue I felt that ¥30,000 would be a bit over-the-top. I settled on 10,000 yen.
This particular wake was held at one of the large temples in Tokyo. When I arrived there the process was to register my name and then hand over the envelope. Once that was completed I took my place in line waiting for my turn to go into the ceremony hall to burn some incense and offer a prayer for the soul of the departed.
The next step is to turn to the seated family members and bow. Then, as I departed the ceremony hall the process was to bow to the sons and daughters in law. What was a bit surprising was that everybody bows, but nobody offers words of condolence to the family. Everything is done in silence other than the chanting of the Buddhist monks.
I have attended several funerals in Japan, but this one was a little different as the family is a pretty well-known business family so the number of people attending was well over a hundred. The actual funeral service will be held today and I would imagine there will be another hundred or more people attending that.
Just another aspect of living in Japan.