Are Japanese Funerals Buddhist Only?

Japanese census system is build by the Buddhist temples.
This started over 300 years go during the Edo period when Tokugawa ruled Japan.
In order to control and take the head counts of people (to collect taxes), what Tokugawa did was to have everyone be in under the shrines and temples.

Nikko Toshogu (Where Tokugawa’s graveyard is located).

Temples not only counted people, it served as an educational institute back then.
The word “Terakoya” 寺子屋 the literal meaning in Japanese is “Temple Children House”, where it taught children read and write.
Yes, Japanese education system for the public started way before people can imagine.
We can say that this was the start of the public schooling system.
By this, the temple could head count the children and also teach them to be literate and also take a note of where they lived.

Well, you know that monkey sees no evil, hears no evil, and speaks no evil in Japan.

Are Japanese funerals Buddhists only?

The short answer is a big NO

What do you think?
The number of worshipers do not equal the population.
This is because most Japanese worship both Buddhism and Shitoism and practice both rituals.

In the matter of fact, Japanese celebrate Christmast and nowadays even Halloween.
These are all festivals for the Japanese society.
But when it comes to rituals, it’s a totally different matter.

Kanda Shrine (Kanda Myojin) near Akihabara

There are about 82,000 shrines and 74,000 temples in Japan.
Yes, that many! Out of those 74,000 temples, about 14,000 to 17,000 temples are without monks in charge.

The death toll of 2022 in Japan was 1.58 Million.
Compared to 2021, it was 1.44 Million.
There was 140K death increase in one year.
If this number keeps on growing there will be an overflow in the crematoriums in Japan.
The cost of cremation in Tokyo is rising and causing a big issue.
More death, more business?
No, more death means people are not able to budget an adequet ceremonial rituals and leaving monks and priests out of the funeral.

Having said that more death leaving monks and priests out of funerals, this leaves monks out ot the game.
The issue we have will be that there will be more temples that will go under and out of “business of rituals”.
As I wrote in the above, 14K to 17K temples are without monks and some are desolate, without other monks taking care of it.

Tsukiji Hongwanji Temple

People stopped having rituals during COVID days due to not being able to assemble at the funeral parlors.
Many crematoriums also restricted over 10 people for the gathering.
This is due to if one of the family members were contracted with COVID, while these people using the crematorium facilities, they would leave the virus around. Then the crematorium staff can contract.

Crematoriums are run with minimum staff.
Not like other muncipal facilities such as city office. Some are even privately owned (permissioned by the local government). The staff are scarce in such places and cannot afford staff getting sick. So does the funeral parlors.
Some companies only have few staff and use temp dispatch workers.

In Japan, many are multi-religious, meaning that they act differently on different occations in life.
When born, we go to the shrine to celebrate.
Each new years, we go to the shrine.
At the age of 3, 5, and 7, we also go to the shrine to celebrate.
Can’t forget Christmas!
We go to the temples for various reasons including funerals and usually, there are family graves at the temple.
We go to pray and pay respect to the ancestors and families.

Nowadays, we go to temple for weddings as well.
Yes, it’s not only for the place for the dead, but also for celebration.

Tsukiji Hongwanji has temple weddings.

According the the studies and statistics taken by the Japanes government, there are supposed to be 87 Million who go to the shrine. Then we also have 83 Million that go to the temples.
Combined, that’s 170 Million people but there are only 122 Million people in Japan.
We haven’t counted the Christians that are close to 2 Million, and others of 7 Million.
This in total, over 179 Million people, with the population of 122 Million.

You can download from above (r04sr03.xlsx) or form the government statistics URL.

Now, you see that the Japanese are multi-religious culture.
This is due to Edo Tokugawa period that he conglomerated shrines and temples together and the culture still ives on over 300 years and not to forget that temples were used as government offices and schools as well.

Inside Higashi Hongwanji in Kyoto where there is Noh stage.

We have to understand that temples are no longer sustainable in the society.
They must change their mentality of doing the “correct” money making business and not only running kindergarten and parking lots where they can.

Some monks that are business oriented definitely says that the number of temple should be about 1/3 or 1/4 of the current 74,000 temples. But there are issues of graveyards that exists in many of the temples.

Temples and shrine resturcturing is a must.
They cannot sustain only by selling special stamps (seals) called “Goshuin” and other souveniors.
Entrance fees are also exempt from taxes since it is based on requiring to maintain the facility.
There are monetary (finance) issues as well that religious organizations cannot apply for collecting money using credit card system unless under profitable corporate state.

The temples must understand it is a community area and restructure the business.
There are many things that monks and Shinto priests can offer to the public and not being to good use.
I know there are some places that have yoga classes but this is not the only way.

This is the 21st century and people must make the action since the government is unwilling to.

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