While on a recent trip to Japan, I was struck by a few realizations.
The Japanese are perfectionists. Unlike Americans, who thrive for “McMansions” the Japanese are not fixated on making things bigger, but rather better. Whereas we adorn rooms with massive flower arrangements, they would choose one magnificent perfectly-placed flower or plant to hold court. There, it is not about the abundance of food that is serve, but rather being sure that each piece of sushi consumed was as fresh and accurately cut and prepared as could be. I even took a picture of a small bird ornament that was placed on the wallpaper in my hotel room- a item such as this would rarely be found in America. There, I saw no detail spared.
The Japanese are respectful and rule abiding. As a New Yorker, walking down the street is a full-contact activity. True New Yorkers do not stroll down Fifth Avenue ogling at the sites with the thousands of tourists— we do everything in our power to dodge and maneuver past them. When it comes to a crosswalk, we make sure to get in-front of the crowds and then cross against the light if deemed (even narrowly) safe enough. While in Tokyo, I was struck by the fact that the locals respected the red light at the crosswalk even though the road opposite was closed and there was no chance of a car coming.
There are very few cemeteries. Yes, I am now the person who travels to see cemeteries. As you can see from this blog, I am fixated on learning how different cultures memorialize their deceased. Because, however, Japan has the highest cremation rate, (nearly 100% of the Japanese are cremated) few cemeteries exist. Although I saw the large packed Kiyomizu Cemetery and the tiny ones on the outskirts of small towns, cemeteries are simply not as prevalent there.
Given these epiphanies, I was particularly fascinated to come back and find this:
At first I was shocked, but then it all made sense. Suddenly, I realized that this convention was not bizarre but rather completely fitting. Unlike the Americans, the Japanese have accepted that death is a part of life. Once reality was acknowledged, these law-abiding perfectionists wanted to be sure that each step towards cremation was meticulously carried out.
Clearly, the Japanese people have responded well to this expo. I firmly believe that the only way for us to move forward in life is to learn from other cultures. Given what I saw of the Japanese people, I was not all too surprised to see that among other things there was a competition for the encoffiners, a place to try out coffins, and a display of new hearses and urn embellishments.
While in Japan I often noticed aspects of the culture that I admired and hoped to replicate when I got back home. This expo reawakened my appreciation. Isn’t it time that we reassess how each aspect of our deathcare? Can we take a hint from the Japanese and rather than try to close our eyes to this industry, allow it to be respected and “perfected?” Maybe rather than go to a RV expo, the next big attraction will be the “Life Ending” expo in America.