Japanese Hearse

Thursday, April 19, 2012

After the many formalities and ceremonies of a Japanese funeral, it comes time for the deceased to be transported to a crematorium to be cremated. Traditionally the coffin containing the body is carried in a richly decorated Japanese hearse resembling a Buddhist temple, a reikyusha in Japanese (see image below).

Japanese hearse in Gifu

There are regional variations in the style of traditional Japanese hearses, Nagoya known for its ornateness, whereas Kansai is more subdued.

After the cremation ceremony, the mourners return to the funeral hall or the residence of the deceased on a different route than the one taken to the crematorium. This is a superstition so that the spirit of the deceased cannot return to haunt the living and will pass smoothly into the afterlife. The mourners are often symbolically dusted with purifying salt before crossing the threshold of the house on their return. Another Japanese superstition on seeing a hearse is to press your thumb inside your other four fingers to ward off the possibility of death.

Note the vehicle registration number plate of the hearse has the number "800" reserved for special-purpose vehicles.

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