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By Stuart D.B. Picken

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Cit. 26 I:20-21). In its spiritual aspect, the souls of the dead continue to exist and the living may maintain contact with them. Unlike the roots of the Western tradition, there are no moral aspects and no pessimism. These characteristics give the Japanese view of death its three characteristic and traditional distinguishing features. 1. Parallel Worlds of the Living and the Dead From the abundance of anthropological and ethnological research data available, evidence abounds to show the continuity into modern times of the themes sounded in the classics.

Another illustration is the way in which the rites of passage for the living parallel the rites of passage for the dead. The Chichibu region of Saitama Prefecture, near Tokyo, preserves these customs within a community that is partly agricultural and partly industrial. Before tanjo (birth) occurs, certain pre-natal rites are performed. After one week, on the evening of the shichiya (the seventh night), the child is named and introduced to his relatives. On the thirtieth day after birth, the child is taken to the shrine for Hatsu-miya-mairi (the first shrine visit), and becomes a parishioner.

Manyoshu (tr. Honda, HH Tokyo: Hokushindo Press, 1967 p. 217 (Op. 210) On the death of his wife he wrote beautiful elegies of her: Beautiful was the tsuki tree upon the bank my dear wife and I used to view, which in springtime was bedecked with fresh green leaves, and as beautiful was she. I loved her with all my heart, but none can flee the inevitable. The funeral procession started in the morning with white flags fluttering, and through the wild field where the heat wave shimmered it reached the hill.

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