Memorial Service

Buddhist Funeral

Funerals in Japan varie depending on sect or temple. The following is a brief introduction of a wake ceremony and funeral ceremony at Kongoji Zen Temple.
The most important service of a funeral is the assignement of a posthumous name, called "Kaimyo" and the reading of the final words, called "Indo". They are created by the head priest of Kongoji Zen Temple and changes depending on the life of the deceased and the personality as well as the wishes of the bereaved family. The reading of Sutras during the ceremony is done to pray for a peaceful journey and sleep of the deceased.


Wake Ceremony
  1. Speech・Explanation of Kaimyo
  2. Sutra reading (Originally read when shaving the hair and purifying the deceased)
  3. Reminder to reflect on the mistakes of life and purifying of the mind
  4. Taking the vow as a Buddhist disciple
  5. Invititation of a commandment to be observed as a Buddhist disciple
  6. Giving of the Kaimyo
  7. Sutra reading (When deceased was originally placed in the casket)
  8. Sutra to memorialize the deceased


Funeral Ceremony
  1. Speech・About life and death
  2. Sutra, which was originally, read when carrying the casket to the temple with the lid closed
  3. Praying for the deceased's soul
  4. Reading of "Indo" poetry to clear the hesitation and lead to enlightenment
  5. Sutra to memorialize the deceased
  6. Sutra reading (Originally read at a memorial service to be performed on the 7th day counting from the anniversary of death)



Kaimyo is a new name given to the deceased by a Buddhist priest. Originally, it is a name given to a person who decides to follow the teachings of Buddha. In Japan today it is generally given to the deceased as a name which resembles the life and/or personality of the deceased. Some may also see it as a reflection on ones life. The name will be engraved on the tombstone and read when offering memorial services. It is the last word that Buddhist priests pass on to the deceased. The name consists of the name chosen by the priest and an addition of three main types of command names for the Rinzai school.




Memorial Service (Hoji)

Memorial services are held to remember and thank the deceased. Remembering "what kind of person he/she was" and "how he/she lived his/her life", giving gratitude to life itself, the connection with the deceased and the relationships with the people around ones self.

In present days, the chances of gathering with siblings and relatives are decreasing. Through Buddha, the relatives have the chance to gather and remember the deceased. As long as one is alive, one may memorialize those who have passed away.
If you are thinking of holding a memorial service and would like to know what to do, please contact Kongoji Zen Temple first. We will carefully explain all the different steps and support you in any matter.
Day 49
After 49 days
This is the 49th day of counting from the day of passing. In ancient India, it was believed that on this day one will be reborn.
Year 1
1st year
It is derived from the teachings of Chinese Confucianism: “The 13 month memorial service from the date of death”. This memorial day is also called “Shoshouki”. The memorial service is held one year after the deceased's death.
Year 3
2nd year
Performed 25 months after the funeral, this memorial service is also called Daishoki. After the first year of mourning has passed, the memorial services are counted with an extra year. This means that the memorial service after the 2nd year is held in the third year of counting and for this reason called the third year.
Year 7
6th year
Also called "Choshoki", this memorial service is a typical Japanese custom. The number seven is cherished as a number of exceeding the 6 realms of rebirth or also called 6 worlds in which humans could get lost. The memorial service is the seventh year of the funeral, counted plus 1.
Year 13
12th year
It is also called "Shomyoki". Shomyo is a Buddhist scripture that is set to be chanted at Buddhist ceremonies to thank the virtues of the three jewels in Buddhism: Buddha, Dharma (teachings), Sangha (companions).
Year 17
16th year
The 17th year (counted 16 years after the funeral +1 year) as the 7th year, emphasizes the number "seven" and is called "Jimyoki".
Year 25
24th year
Also called “Daishiki”. It is a  turning point after the death of the deceased.
Year 33
32nd year
This memorial day is also called “Reishoki” which means "going back to nature and returning to ones original form". This memorial service can be seen as the end of the mourning period. With this last memorial service one becomes a member of his ancestors.

Offerings for memorial services

At commemorations, offerings are made for the deceased. At Kongoji Zen Temple, we will prepare tea, hot water and a small plate with rice, soup, vegetables and pickles as offerings. Other offerings, such as sweets, fruits and flowers, as seen in the photo below, will be prepared by the bereaved family as a tribute to the deceased, if they wish so.

Offerings to prepare for memorial services
3.Flowers for the ceremony                   
4.Flowers for the grave         
5.Incense sticks for the grave

1 to 4 can be prepared by the temple. In that case, please pay 10,000 yen as an offering fee.

6.At the 49th day memorial service, it is a local custom to offer sticky rice cake. It is customary to take it with you after the ceremony and share and eat it together with all the attendees at the lunch table.