Apr 3, 2011 by Sushi Bird
It has been a strange weekend. Yesterday I went to my first Japanese wake. Not a funeral, but just the wake. The person was not close to me, I simply went to pay my respects. It was a crash course in culture, I felt so out of place. Having to go to the funeral parlor, give your money, tucked the right way into the envelope (back of the bill inside the envelope facing upwards), having to write your name and address so they can send you a gift back, stand in line, go in front of everyone, one by one, bow in front of everyone, take the incense from the bowl, put it in the other bowl, put your hands together, say a silent prayer inside of you for the deceased, turn around in front of everyone, bow again, walk out of the room. No one had told me what to do before entering the room, I followed the others lead and did as well as I could. Needless to say, I do not know a lot of details about Buddhist rituals. I tried to not stick out, however, I felt so out of place, taking part in something like this. It seemed both intimate and distant at the same time. Despite feeling out of place and not knowing exactly what to do, it felt good to pay my respects. Looking at all the other people, some crying, a lot of faces set in stone, the silence drowned out the chitchat. I am not sure what to write about it all, it moved me, but again I felt like I was a true foreigner, observing all of this from the outside in, not quite grasping the true essence of it all.