Japanese burials

In 1963, my eighth-grade teacher–a woman I did not dare contradict–had visited Japan. She showed us slides; one showed tombstones in a Japanese cemetery. She said that, due to the scarcity of land in the country, bodies are buried in Japan standing up! But many years later, my mother–who had read up on Japanese history–said that according to the Japanese religious beliefs they do not have interment in the Occidental sense. Who is right?

Your teacher was full of crap. In Japan, the deceased are typically cremated, followed by interrment of the ashes in small vertical gravestones.

Yep, your teacher was full of it.

Most, if not all, bodies are cremated in Japan. AFAIK, this is a legal requirement, ostensibly for public health reasons although I’m sure space is a concern. The ashes are typically not buried, but are kept inside a small stone monument with the family name inscribed (I’ve seen public cemeteries with gravestones that look pretty similar to American ones, but the ones in the Buddhist temples are rectangular, about 1-1.5m tall and 10cm wide and thick). I’ve heard of some families keeping a family grave on their own property, although this is probably becoming less common as more people move to the cities and live in apartments.

As a side note, Japanese law seems to be fairly strict about where you can put someone after they die. In other countries, can you be punished for scattering someone’s ashes without a permit (assuming, of course, that all legal issues concerning the scatteree’s death have been sufficiently resolved)? I remember one case a couple of years ago in Japan(no references, of course, this is the internet), where the police couldn’t prove their lead suspect was guilty of murder, but they could prove he was guilty of “Illegal disposal of a body,” for which he was given a 10-year sentence.


The above answers are correct, although the adam’s apple may be handeled in a different way. It is sometimes intered separately - usually at the families home altar or at the head temple of the sect in question. IIRC the adam’s apple is considered the seat of the soul. It is known as the “nodo botoke” or “thoat buddha” because it supposedly resembles a seated buddha.