The first time I explored a Japanese department store, I was excited to see that they had an entire department devoted to clothes in my favorite color: black! Then a Japanese friend explained: it was the mofuku department. Funeralwear. Yes, in the Land of Extreme Specialization, people maintain a whole set of clothes and accessories specifically designed not to break any funeral rules!
And what might those rules be, I nervously asked. Isn’t it okay just to wear something respectfully black, avoiding, of course, thigh-revealing miniskirts and plunging necklines? What makes funeralwear different?
Well, for one thing, proper funeral clothing can’t have one stitch or button that isn’t black. It has to be black in every way. Even the cloth has to be super black, dyed twice, of possible.
Black stockings, black shoes, black handbag, and black gloves if you’re wearing nail polish.
Oh, and make sure that bag and shoes aren’t made of leather – most people live as Shinto practitioners, but they die as Buddhists. Because Buddhism prohibits killing other living things, it’s in somewhat poor taste to show up at the ceremony with dead animals on your feet or looped over your arm. Of course, you’re supposed to be so focused on mourning the Dear Departed that you don’t give any thought to jewelry and makeup. The only exception is pearls. You’re allowed to wear one strand, but not two. Two will double your grief.
Men wear black suits with white shirts, and plain black ties. And black socks. Don’t forget the black socks. This is not the time for kneeling in front of the incense urn and displaying your favorite argyles, no matter how fetching they may be.
The Last Tea Bowl Thief was chosen as an Editor’s Pick for
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Jonelle Patrick writes novels set in Japan, produces the monthly e-magazine Japanagram, and blogs at Only In Japan and The Tokyo Guide I Wish I’d Had
2 thoughts on “All Black, All The Time”
Lovely! I used to be a big fan of black myself. I remember my first Japanese funeral, I had to run to the 100 yen store and get a black tie. I still wear it often, though not for funerals… 🙂
Ahahaha, you are a brave man, wearing a black tie as a fashion item! I had to buy a whole new wardrobe during my first year in Japan. In San Francisco, black is basically the go-to color for every season, with slight variations in fabric. Like, is it “black linen season” or “black wool season”? Now I have some inexplicable pink items (o-hanami) and light blue items (spring) and purple and brown items (fall) in my closet. It took a supreme act of will to acquire them,and I feel quite sure they will see limited light of day on The Other Side Of The Pacific.