Isabella has spent ten days in Tokyo and has written about virtually none of them. The weather has been lovely and exactly what it should have been two months ago when she started this shindig. Her time has been full of excursions, shopping, dinner parties, and farewell calls.
The only excursion she devotes any detail to is her trip to a crematorium. It’s something that a sect of Buddhists had long practiced until five years ago, when the government banned it.* The ban was lifted three years ago and now 9000 bodies are burned annually.
The governor, after they had a conversation about the Ainu,** loaded her in his personal karuma and sends her into the suburb where the burnings are done. To her eyes, the rural surroundings suggest “farm buildings in Kent” rather than a “horrible funeral pyre.”
The dead are brought to this temple, which has four rooms with earthen floors and mud walls. There are small red earthenware urn and tongs for sale to relatives. A service for the family is done in the pubic space, then the body is interred in a coffin. At 8 p.m., the fire is lit and replenished during the night. By morning, “that which was a human being is a small heap of ashes, which is placed in an urn by the relatives and honorably interred.”
“Thirteen bodies were burned the night before my visit, but there was not the slightest odor in or about the building, and the interpreter told me that, owing to the height of the chimneys, the people of the neighborhood never experience the least annoyance even while the the process is going on.”
Tomorrow will mark our last entry from Japan. The time draws near.
* No one is certain why but it is implied that the government believed it offended the Europeans.
** He asks for her unvarnished opinions. She doesn’t actually give them because this is Japan. Asking for unvarnished opinions doesn’t mean they are actually desired.