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Recently, I had a conversation with a fellow who used to live in Japan. He married a Japanese woman whose father passed away a couple of months ago. Thus, they had to make a sudden trip back to Japan and, as the only child, they are the only people who can deal with the father’s affairs. They also have to cover the costs, which, as it turns out, are considerable. Let me see if I can relate the jist of the conversation. Let me know if I get anything incorrect.

Japan is a country of mostly Buddhists. To plan and hold a funeral, one must deal with the priests. It seems that the priests are free to set the price at whatever they want. “I always thought of Buddhist priests as very holy and tied to a temple and rituals.” According to the fellow I was talking to, “that is only for show, once they are done, off comes the gown and they are wearing suits and are very shrewd business men.” He told me, they drive around in Mercedes Benzes. Apparently, nobody really questions the practices of the priests and one must be born into the order to attain this privileged position in society.

A Japanese Buddhist funeral is not only expensive, it is a long and protracted set of events that includes a cremation and the laying out of the bones. Since it will take 49 days until the next portion of the funeral, my friend and his wife must make another trip back to Japan.

I guess we really can’t complain about a western funeral, unless, it concerns the carbon footprint of a cremation or burial. An alternative to cremation is on the way—resomation.

So, what do you think about Japanese funerals? How about Buddhism and the priests? Have you heard of resomation and what do you think about it?