Buddhism’s Got Talent: Japanese expo promotes traditional funerals

More than 7,000 people attended each day of the first ever Life Ending Industry Expo in Japan. Events held over the three day exhibition included a competition to perform the best burial ritual and a test of skill for Buddhist monks.

Prizes were awarded to the funeral professional to have carried out the best ‘nokan’ (or ‘encoffening’) ritual. This traditional method, now rarely used, involves dressing and preparing the body before placing it in the coffin.

Traditional funerals played a large part in the exhibition. Priests and Buddhist monks took part in a separate contest involving chanting, sermons and even karate chopping tiles, aiming to encourage the public back towards funerals by monks.

A spokeswoman for the event, Mayumi Tominaga, explained: “It’s getting more and more difficult for monks to maintain their temples as a business as the temple memberships are declining.

“The number of people who die will peak in 2040 in Japan, but many elderly people are choosing to stop using their ancestral tombs.”

The next expo is already set for 22-24 August 2016.

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