How to Dress for a Japanese Funeral
After returning home from the hospital, the first thing my husband grilled me on was what I had in the way of funeral attire. My old boss had nagged at me to get a black suit. "You'll need it," he'd assured me. And it is true that if there is one item of clothing in every Japanese person's closet, it must surely be The Black Suit, good for every occasion: job interviews, weddings, funerals, birthday parties, you name it. But, men, take note that you only wear an all-black tie for funerals; white tie for weddings; every other occasion, go crazy. (I was just teasing about the birthday parties part, though you can if you want to.)
Unfortunately, I'd failed to heed my boss's nagging. A waste of money, I'd thought, I'll never wear it. If you're a woman though, it doesn't *have* to be a suit; that's just your safest bet. Here are the key rules when putting together your funeral ensemble:
I did have most of the important bits: tights, shoes, and a seriously ugly-ass skirt I'd bought in a fit of rage one afternoon in New York right before a job interview, not able to bear one more lascivious "Ay, mamma" from those delivery truck guys who, I swear, would mutter and stare at anything remotely female. Two sizes too big, the skirt hits at the most unflattering possible point around the calves, and that day, I stalked defiantly out of the store wearing my new purchase, daring any fool carting stacked boxes of bottled water to even glance my way. I almost cackled with glee as I made my way down Broadway, ignored.
Anyhow, the skirt was perfect. All I needed was a top, but I didn't have much time. I'd never realized how fast funerals are set in motion in Japan. Maybe it's the same all over the world, but the morning following Otou-chan's death, we promptly received a phone call regarding the funeral details. It seems I had only a few hours to get myself an appropriate jacket that would not shock or shame my Japanese family, before I was to hustle over to my mother-in-law's house for the otsuya, the wake.