Since the great earthquake that shook eastern Japan, I have been reluctant in writing funeral methods but will start once again.
BTW, April 28th will be the 49th day (Shijukunichi) from March 11th. The 11th is the 1st counting day.
After being placed in the coffin, after the purification ritual, people will place the memorial items in the coffin that can burn (without any explosion — such as golf balls or damage to the bones such as coloring or staining — such as eye glasses). Such items are clothing that was worn and no one else will wear, beloved books — needs to be torn apart to burn efficiently, and some flowers.
Eye glasses worn by the late person will be placed in the urn after cremation. The melted lens will stain the remaining bones and sometimes the frame will do some damage to the furnace, thus is left until burial.
Coffin is either taken to the funeral parlor or if done at home, placed under the decoration. When taken to the parlor, the hearse is hired to leave home. The head of family will ride the hearse and with the body to the parlor.
After being placed, when the wake starts, monk (priest) will say a prayer. Usually, the Japanese wake will last for 1 hour. The monk will give the prayer and people will start burning incense to mourn the dead. The order of burning differs in the area of Japan. I have encountered a place that the guests are asked to start before the head of the family, which shocked me very much. But this was the tradition of that area.
The number of times of placing the incense differs under religious sect of Buddhism. 3 times is the usual but once is OK. There are times that we present flowers or “Sakaki” regarding the religion and sects, such as Christian and Shinto. There are times that monks do not appear but here, I’m specifying as a Buddhism funeral at the moment.
In the Kanto area, in most cases, the guests are asked to enjoy a light meal for coming to mourn the dead. There are sects that do NOT offer for the guest and just for the family. The guests, after placing the incense is directed to the hall with food and drink and gather to see old friends and acquaintances. Then leave for the night.
Under most Buddhism sects (other than Jodo Shinshu), the guests are giving salt for purification to spray before entering your home, and a welcoming gift of handkerchief or small towel, along with the thank you note (postcard). These gifts are not mandatory, but usually, these postcards are. This is due to the evidence that they went to a funeral service. In some cases, if an employee is sent in place of superior, when he/she is asked to bring the gift of some amount of money (KOHDEN–money to the deceased), they are asked to show some proof that they went and gave the gift instead.
For the survived family, they will stay until the monk has stopped chanting the prayers. Then the monk will sometimes speak of the meaning of dead or teach some rituals for a while and will end the service for the night.
Family will eat with the monk (or the monk might leave for the night before eating with the family) and enjoy the talk of the deceased in past life. The family member is usually asked to watch over the body (parlors that can stay over night) and watch over the candle.
Guests and non-family members will leave after having a little meal.
Japanese “TSU-YA” means “Through the Night”, which stands for the ritual will keep on going for all night long.