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Ancestors, burial rites, and rural depopulation in Japan

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Chapter Summary

This chapter explores the intersection of demographic change-specifically increased longevity, decreased fertility, and rural depopulation- and interactions between living and dead. The key point for most Japanese is that the rituals be performed on a regular basis and that the grave site be kept clean and orderly. Performance of the rituals and maintenance of the grave site is part of a complex relationship that Japanese share with their ancestors, but the primary issue for our purposes here is that ritual performance and care of the grave is understood as a way in which to express concern or caring for lost loved-ones. In general, Japanese tend to conceptualize ancestor veneration as being important for the living as much as it is for the dead. In societies such as Japan population decline represents a problem that crosses the lines of life and death.

Keywords: ancestor veneration; grave site; Japanese ritual practice



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