The New York Times
March 23, 2011
Because of the number of victims, families have had to bury their dead instead of cremating them, an important Japanese tradition.
HIGASHI-MATSUSHIMA, Japan – It was neither the place nor the time for a proper goodbye: not here, on a homely hilltop that used to house the city garbage incinerator. And not now, fully 12 days after a tsunami erased this town’s seacoast and forever sundered hundreds of families and friendships.
Yet on this raw, wind-whipped Wednesday afternoon, Fujimi and Ekuko Kimura watched as a procession of soldiers unloaded the coffin of Taishi Kimura, husband and son, from the back of an army truck, and laid it with 35 others in a narrow trench, partitioned into graves with pieces of plywood.
It was the rudest of funerals for a family already shouldering unbearable grief. It fell to the Kimuras – later, after the soldiers left – to turn a mass burial into a poignant and graceful farewell.
In Japan, it is not normal to bury the dead, much less to lay dozens side by side in a backhoe-dug furrow. Cremation is both nearly universal and an important rite in an elaborate funeral tradition deeply rooted in Buddhism.
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