View Full Version : Chopsticks and Bones

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Jory Boling
04-19-2006, 07:37 AM
I just attended my first Japanese funeral and participated in the Buddhist custom of picking up post-cremation bones and putting them in an urn. Can someone tell me why this is done? Why did this custom come to be?


04-19-2006, 05:17 PM
Don't know the history, but it sure is a powerful kind of closure, isn't it.

Jory Boling
04-19-2006, 05:50 PM
yes it was. in English, that's about the only explanation that i've found, so far. I didn't even know the man and here I am putting one if his bones in an urn with his cousin. before they closed it, his adam's apple was pointed out and placed on top and then a piece from his cranium. wow.

now i'm driven to find out the orgins of handling the bones of loved ones with eating utensils.

it also drove home the warning in all the guidebooks: NEVER pass food from one another with chopsticks. i can totally see/feel that now.

Jory Boling
04-19-2006, 09:24 PM
From a friend:
"It is said that there is a river called “Sanzu no kawa” between our world (living human world) and dead world (heaven/ hell). The dead have to cross this river and it is called “Hashi watashi (crossing river)”.

When we pass the bones into the urn after the cremation, we make a pair and pass the bone with chopsticks made with bamboo and other tree (using different kind of chopsticks, they divided into our world and dead world). This is also called “Hashi watashi” (chopsticks crossing). So, the bereaved family does Hashi watashi and wish the dead person can cross the Sanzu no kawa safely.

Also it contains the meaning that the bereaved family could divide their sadness into pieces by doing it with other people and pray for the dead to go to the other world.

When we put the bone into urn, we put the foot bone first and head last because it helps the dead stand.

Did it help your understanding about Japanese funerals? I hope that you could understand my English. Everything has meaning and it comes from sincerity and respect others.

Yukiko "

04-19-2006, 09:33 PM
Did it help your understanding about Japanese funerals? I hope that you could understand my English.

Yukiko "

Yes. Best post in weeks. Thank you very much. I didn't even know English was your first language until your last line.

I'm constantly fascinated by the...revered place of pun in the Jpn language.

Janet Rosen
04-20-2006, 01:08 PM
wow. jory, thank your friend for sharing this information with us.

Jory Boling
04-20-2006, 04:34 PM
Thanks for reading it. Many of my Japanese friends said, "I don't know. I've always wanted to know that, too!" I wish I had known the background information before I participated. I am not looking forward to the next time, but at least I will have a greater sense of what's goind on.

"...I hope you understand my English." haha, I told her if somebody didn't understand her English then they probably don't speak English.