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Family graveyard matters...

monka

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Hello,
I am reaching out as I am somewhat at a loss on how to appropriately deal with my Japanese buddhist family grave - located in Shikoku. I am the oldest son to a Japanese father ( passed away ) and a German mother. Since I only spent a couple of teenage years in Japan, I do not speak much Japanese and after German college ended up in California. Here as just another mixed fellow I feel comfortable - just part of a still growing and evolving culture.
Since my mother returned to Germany after my father's passing, the graveyard has been maintained by volunteers of the community, but our remaining family ( 2 cousins from my dad's only sister ) is asking us to solve this situation. But they are not specific on how to solve it. And as I am researching this online as much as I can, it seems like the current Japan is struggling with these questions too: As kids tend to live far away from their parents, family grave yards just cannot be easily tended to. I heard there are ways to give up a family grave and bring the remains to a communal temple area, but I cannot find much information...
If anyone could chip in what may be a respectful way to dissolve this in a permanenty, I would be grateful. None of my siblings live in Japan, so there is just no continuation in sight.
I love Japan and have many fond memories - but in the serious matters it's very difficult to communicate with family as there are many obligations, traditions, sentiments in the culture that are not to be communicated directly.
umon
 

Toritoribe

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It's called 墓じまい, i.e., "dismantling a family tomb" in Japanese. You can find information (in Japanese, of course) by googling with this word. There are agents to do it on behalf of family members, so it would be better to talk about it with your cousins, I think.
 

monka

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Thank you Toritoribe. I started looking up some sites based on 墓じまい - Google translate works pretty decent... and yes: eventually this will need to be discussed with family. But it's good to get informed independently...
 

Majestic

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Also check out 永代供養 (Eitaikuyō), which means entrusting the remains to the local temple in a communal burial plot/crypt. Typically you would pay a mortuary-service provider to close the family grave; remove the remains, clear the headstones, arrange for a priest to say the necessary rites. And then the remains are moved to the temple plot and interred there with more prayers and payments to the temple. It is a common/everyday service, and I think becoming more and more popular. If your relatives have a particular temple they are associated with, I'm sure the temple will help you out.

Your cousins will be glad to be rid of the burden of the gravesite. The gravesite caretakers are probably bugging them about upkeep and maybe even maintenance fees. Its good to be proactive about this. I forget how much the eitaikuyō costs. Its probably slightly more expensive than you imagine. Something like 1,000,000 yen, I think. (US$10,000 about).

Probably costs a bit less in Shikoku.
 

monka

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Thank you Majestic! Very complex dealings indeed.
As I am working my way through the Google translated sites yes: it is all becoming much clearer. The main question I have to discuss with my direct family but also of course with the cousins is where to take the remains. As much as this is a spiritual question it is also financial one: It seems to depend on the number of family members whose remains are at the current grave. That is one thing I will need to find out.
Either way I am hoping to find a doable permanent dissolution of the grave as my generation ( me and 3 siblings ) has left Japan long ago and there will just not be anyone... and to me all options ( communal plot/tomb - tree burial or scattering the ashes in the sea or any other peaceful place ) spiritually feel appropriate - but the cost and effort to get this all done, are quite involved. Somewhere I read this would usually take somewhere between 1- 3 years...
If there are any "alternative" ways to deal with this, I'd love to hear from anyone!
My father was an artist and quite a free spirit, accordingly the funeral/memorial celebration was an eclectic mix of family, friends and neighbors stopping by - instead of a priest my buddhist sister performed some meditative bell music and a German Christian Preacher volunteered a personal free spirited memorial. The event was concluded with a recorded song by the deceased... " ringo no shita..." under the apple tree... and his final words in English: That's it! The show must go on.
 
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