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Mourning. The Japanese, like other nations under Chinese influence, are very strict on the subject of mourning. Formerly three mourning codes (Bukki Ryō) prevailed simultaneously. Of these one was for Shintō priests, another for the Kyōto nobility, and yet another for the Daimyōs and Samurai. The last alone has survived, and its prescriptions are still followed by old-fashioned persons. Mourning, be it remarked, consists of two things the wearing of mourning garments, and abstinence from animal food. This premised, the following table is self-explanatory:—

Garments. Food.
Great-great-grandparents[1] 30 days 10 days
Great-grandparents[1] 90 " 20 "
Grandparents[1] 150 " 30 "
Real parents … 13 months 50 "
Adopted parents … 13 " 50 "
Step-parents … 30 days 10 "
Father's legitimate wife[2] 30 " 10 "
Divorced mother … 150 " 30 "
(Woman's) parents-in-law … 50 " 20 "
Uncle and aunt[1] 90 " 20 "
Husband … 13 months 50 "
Wife … 90 days 20 "
Brothers and sisters[1] 90 " 20 "
Half-brothers and sisters … 30 " 10 "
Eldest son … 90 " 20 "
Other children … 30 " 10 "
Eldest son’s eldest son 30 " 10 "
Other grandchildren 10 " 3 "
Adopted son 30 " 10 "
Nephews and nieces 7 " 3 "
First cousins 7 " 3 "

Infants under three months are not mourned for, and the period of mourning for children is greatly reduced if they are under seven years of age.

Whenever a death occurs in the family of an official, he must at once report it to the Department to which he is attached. The theory is that he should remain at home during the whole of the proper period of mourning. But as this would cause inconvenience in practice, he is always absolved from the operation of the rule, and ordered to "attend office though in mourning." When any member of the Imperial family dies, a notification is issued prohibiting all sound of music throughout the land for the space of three days, and even for a longer period if the deceased personage stood very near the throne.

Periodical visits to the grave of the deceased—haka-mairi, as they are termed—form an essential part of the Japanese system of mourning. The days prescribed by custom for these visits are the seventh day after decease, the fourteenth, twenty-first, thirty-fifth, forty-ninth, and hundredth; then the first anniversary, the third anniversary, the seventh, thirteenth, seventeenth, twenty-third, twenty-seventh, thirty-third, thirty-seventh, fiftieth, and hundredth. On the more important of these occasions Buddhist services are performed, for instance, on the first and third anniversaries. By some, especially among the poorer classes, the whole of this extensive programme proves to be impossible of fulfilment, and even in the upper class not a few are now found who sensibly imitate Europe by moderating the outward symbols of grief; but the seventh and thirty-fifth days and the first and third anniversaries are never neglected. The observance of the anniversaries of several members of a family is sometimes lumped together when the dates nearly coincide, provided always that none of the honoured dead be kept waiting beyond his due time. All these numbers are calculated according to the old Japanese "inclusive" system or reckoning, so that the so-called third anniversary is really the second, etc. (see p. 12). White is the colour of mourning, not black as in Western lands.

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 On the paternal side. The inferior status of women in the East causes a considerable reduction to be made in the period of mourning for corresponding relatives on the maternal side. A maternal grandfather, for instance, is only mourned for during 90 days, a maternal uncle during 30 days.
  2. A man's legitimate wife is considered the "legal mother" of any children he may have by a concubine. Such children mourn their "legal mother's" death during the period indicated in the text.