Wednesday, 24 April 2024

Stunned by a Japanese wake

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  Stunned by a Japanese wake

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My friend Mike is currently teaching English in Japan. Recently, his landlord passed away. So, he attended the landlord’s wake, which was the first time for him to attend a Japanese wake. When he arrived at the venue, there was something unexpected: merrymaking. Everyone was eating sushi, drinking sake, and making noise. “They're supposed to be sad, but drunk and having a good time instead? I can’t believe it.…" Mike was stunned.

Unable to understand their merrymaking, he asked for my insight. But I didn’t get it either because I had once annoyed people at an acquaintance’s funeral by being cheerful during the photo session taking a commemorative photo of all the attendees. I accidentally smiled at the moment the photographer pressed the shutter button. It was just a habit.... Anyway, how come it’s okay to have a "bacchanal” at a wake while my smiling was a big no-no?

It’s a mystery to me although I’m from Japan. Then, how can I explain to Mike, who is American? After thinking about endless possibilities, I made up a reason: “The deceased must have liked festivities. He’s glad to see everyone else is having fun. So, everything is all right." Mike still seems to be bewildered….


(Yamato Nadeshiko)

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