All Black, All The Time


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.

Even this black hole would not be too black for a Japanese funeral.

Even this black hole would not be too black for a Japanese funeral.

Black stockings, black shoes, black handbag, and black gloves if you’re wearing nail polish.

Not THESE kid of black stockings.

Not THESE kid of black stockings.

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.


Cruisn’ for a bruisin’.

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.

Read a novel set in Tokyo

A young woman dressed as a Gothic Lolita is found dead in a car with two strangers. But the more Yumi Hata learns about her friend’s death, the more she’s convinced it was murder…read more