My mother-in-law’s 23rd death anniversary was on 7th October 2016. On 19th September, we had a memorial service in her honor at my father-in-law’s home in Ichinomiya City. In Japanese Buddhism, memorial services to honor the dead are held frequently. Post funeral of a family member’s death, weekly services are held until the 49th day after death. Further memorial services are held on important anniversaries such as the 1st, 3rd, 7th, 13th, 17th, 23rd, 27th, 33rd, and 50th years. After the 33rd anniversary, the deceased is thought to be absorbed into the family ancestral spirit. These anniversary services are usually held privately (except the 33rd one that is held at a temple) by the family, relatives, and friends. Buddhist priests usually visit the homes of families and conduct a short ceremony, following which the family makes a donation in the name of the deceased to the priests. It is believed that having so many memorial services help us to face the darkness of death and to remember the ancestors who have made our present life meaningful and appreciable. These memorial services are ideally held on the day of the death or on the eve of that day. However in present times, schedules and availability of the family members and relatives is taken into consideration, and the service is often held on a date that is convenient for everyone preferably prior to the day of death. So on 19th September, many of our relatives gathered at my father-in-law’s home and had a memorial service to celebrate the 23rd anniversary of my mother-in-law’s passing.
My mother-in-law passed due to breast cancer at a relatively young age. About a decade ago I was searching for photos of her at our Ichinomiya home and realized that there were none available. This is probably because my father-in-law has put away all the photos of my mother-in-law somewhere safe as he has remarried. A couple of years back I asked hubby’s aunt Tatsu-chan (younger sister of hubby’s mother about whom I have written in the previous post) to give us some photos of my mother-in-law and she provided us with 10 photos. It was the first time I actually saw my mother-in-law. She was so beautiful. I am sharing a couple of photos here.
Hubby’s maternal great grandmother, mother, hubby as a toddler, and maternal uncle (left to right)
Hubby’s maternal aunt Tatsu-chan and mother (back row left to right) along with hubby and his sister (front row left to right)
On 17th September, hubby and I left our home in Yurihonjo City at 8 am and reached Akita Airport after about 45 minutes of car drive. Our flight to Centrair Airport in Aichi prefecture was at 9.30 am. During the beginning of our flight, I clicked a few photos of the outside views from the airplane. The clouds alongside us in the sky as well as the greenery, Mount Chokai, and the Sea of Japan below us looked superb and amazing. After about an hour of flight, we reached Centrair Airport. At the airport we went to the departure lobby located at the fourth floor of the airport building and had lunch at a Japanese-style restaurant named Fufuchaya. Hubby had a set meal of Tendon and I had a set meal of Karaage. In addition, we also had a side dish named Tebasaki which is deep fried chicken wings. We shared our food with each other. The food was delicious and all the dishes tasted great. After lunch we took Meitetsu Airport Line train and reached Ichinomiya Railway Station at about 2 pm, and then took a taxi and reached our home soon afterwards. We cleaned our home the entire evening and later had dinner with father-in-law and his wife at a restaurant located near our home.
Hubby sitting inside the airplane on our way from Akita Airport to Centrair Airport
Fluffy clouds as viewed from inside the airplane
Clouds, greenery, Mount Chokai, and the Sea of Japan as viewed from the airplane
Hubby standing at the departure lobby of Centrair Airport
Tebasaki side dish we had for lunch at Fufuchaya restaurant
Hubby’s set meal of Tendon
My set meal of Karaage
Hubby and I sitting inside Meitetsu Airport Line train and are on our way to Ichinomiya Railway Station
On 18th September, father-in-law, his wife, hubby, and a few other relatives went to play golf at Springfield Golf Club in Tajimi City of Gifu prefecture. They left home at about 6 am. I am not at all interested in golf, and so I preferred to stay at home and relaxed in the morning. In the afternoon, I cleaned our home and watched some local television programs. At about 3.30 pm, hubby returned home after playing golf. In the evening, both the daughters of hubby’s sister visited our home and stayed overnight with us. The nieces played with their uncle for some time and then we all went to a nearby Japanese-style family restaurant for dinner. After returning home, both the nieces took bath and soaked in the bathtub for quite some time. They looked very relaxed afterwards and again played with their uncle for about an hour. The girls were too sleepy and fell asleep by 10 pm.
I had this set meal for dinner at a Japanese-style restaurant
The next morning on 19th September, I made breakfast and fed the nieces and hubby. That morning at 10 am the memorial service for my mother-in-law’s 23rd death anniversary was to be held at father-in-law’s home. Since father-in-law’s home is interconnected to our home, the nieces went to his home at about 9 am. Hubby and I got ready by wearing subdued semiformal clothing and we also went to father-in-law’s home by 9.30 am. Many of our relatives were already present and we all greeted each other and chatted for some time. Afterwards everyone sat down on Zabuton cushions in the Buddhist altar room and waited for the arrival of the Buddhist priests to begin the memorial service. We noted that my father-in-law and his wife had already adorned the altar in a proper manner in advance. Two priests arrived at father-in-law’s home at about 9.45 am and were led to the altar room. The officiating priest and the assistant priest removed their outer dark-colored robe and carried out the ceremony in the inner white Kimono. I guess there is some important significance to this but unfortunately none of my relatives are sure about it. The officiating priest sat down on a special Zabuton cushion kept in front of the altar and lit many incense sticks. Soon afterwards he started chanting some Sutras accompanied by the striking of Mokugyo wooden fish bell with a stick. Mokugyo bell is a percussion instrument that sounds somewhat like the call of a cuckoo. Everyone listened quietly to the chanting accompanied by the sonorous sound of the wooden bell. It is believed that the chanting expounds the teachings of the Buddha, the scent of the incense purifies the participants, and the smoke rising from the incense is said to deliver our thoughts and prayers to the deceased. After about an hour with the final chanting and sermon by the priest, the memorial service was concluded. During the actual service I did not click any photos as it would have been very rude. Afterwards the priests wore back their outer robe and my father-in-law offered them a fee in an envelope for carrying out the services. Later we clicked a few photos along with the priests or with our relatives in front of the altar. Both the priests left father-in-law’s home at about 11.15 am. I feel that it was really a nice way to remember my late mother-in-law.
Hubby and I getting ready for attending the memorial service for my mother-in-law’s 23rd death anniversary
Hubby and his two uncles waiting for the memorial service to begin
My late mother-in-law’s photo in the Buddhist altar room
The altar is adorned in a proper manner for the memorial service. Mokugyo wooden fish bell is seen on the left side foreground of the photo.
Father-in-law and the two priests performing some ritual near the altar. Soon afterwards the officiating priest (right side) began the memorial service.
The memorial service is over and hubby’s uncle is chatting with other relatives
The priests wearing back their outer dark-colored robe
The priests and father-in-law
Father-in-law posing in front of the altar
Hubby, his younger niece, and I sitting in front of the altar
Hubby’s aunt, I, and sister-in-law posing in front of the altar
Younger niece, sister-in-law, and I in the altar room
At about 11.30 am, all the gathered relatives visited my late mother-in-law’s grave located near our home in Ichinomiya City itself. Father-in-law cleaned the gravestone with water, offered flowers, and lit some candles and incense sticks, and we all offered our prayers.
Father-in-law offering flowers at the grave of late mother-in-law and all relatives are looking on
Everyone praying in front of the gravestone
Mother-in-law’s grave decorated with beautiful flowers and lit candles
Soon afterwards, we all had lunch at a Japanese-style restaurant named Kikusui located in Ichinomiya City itself. Kikusui is a long established high-end restaurant that offers multiple course meals. We had nine-course lunch in a private room of the restaurant. The atmosphere was great and the service was good. All the food items tasted delicious. We all chatted and loved having various courses of lunch while recalling many happy moments about my late mother-in-law. We had a very nice time. It was almost 3 pm when we finished having lunch. Afterwards everyone said their goodbyes and went their separate ways to their homes. I realized that these anniversary memorial services in Japan are a very nice way to meet our relatives and friends in an otherwise busy life of everyone.
We all are standing in front of Kikusui restaurant
Nice ambience inside the restaurant
We had lunch in a private room of the restaurant
I am sitting with a few of our relatives
Father-in-law and his wife having lunch
Father-in-law and his older brother chatting while having lunch
We all had a nice time while having lunch
I am posing with hubby’s aunt
Hubby and I during lunch
First course of our lunch
On the morning of 20th September at about 7 am, father-in-law, his wife, and hubby again went to play golf in Tajimi City of Gifu prefecture. I just watched some television programs and relaxed the entire day. Hubby returned home after playing golf at about 6 pm. Soon afterwards father-in-law, his wife, hubby and I had dinner at a Sushi restaurant named Kurazushi located near our home. The food was nice and enjoyable.
Father-in-law and his wife having dinner at Kurazushi restaurant
Father-in-law and hubby having dinner
Hubby enjoying the food
On 21st September, hubby and I returned to Akita. We left our home in Ichinomiya at about 5 am, took a train to Centrair Airport, from where we took a flight back to Akita. We reached Akita Airport at 9.30 am and our home in Yurihonjo City at about 10.30 am.