Friday, August 29, 2008

Meinichi - Death Anniversary

Meinichi is the Japanese term for the anniversary of some ones death. This custom is observed in several Asian cultures besides Japan.

When celebrated every month it is called tsuki meinichi. It is usually held on the day of the month the person passed away. For example, the Vista Buddhist Temple holds Shinran Shonin's Tsuki Meinichi Hoyo on the second Wednesday of every month to commemorate the day the Shonin passed away which is the 16th.

Shotsuki meinichi originally referred to the first year memorial date. Though, overtime the term gradually became used to refer to the month (and often the day) the person passed away. The shotsuki meinichi became the yearly service held in the memory of the deceased. For example, Shinran Shonin's sho-tsuki meinichi is commemorated every year in January. However, because Shinran Shonin is the founder of Jodo Shinshu Buddhism, the followers of Jodo Shinshu give a special name for the Shonin's shotsuki meinichi and call it the Goshoki Ho-onko. Temples in Japan still may use the Lunar Calendar, and because of that Shinran Shonin's shotsuki meinichi (Ho-onko) is also celebrated during the months of October or November.

Common ways of celebrating meinichi are praying, visiting the grave site, and placing items on the household alter. Meinichi while sad because it is remembering a loved one is also a joyous occasion. Shotsuki's literal meaning is joyous month. The literal meaning of meinichi is life (mei) date (nichi). While it is to honor and to pay respects to family members and friends who have passed away, it is mainly for the living. Death anniversaries are associated with several religions, in Japan it is primarily associated with Buddhism.

This can be seen in the Ranma Manga volume 22 where they go to Miss Tendo's grave site on the anniversary of her death. The picture at the top of the post is from the manga while they are observing meinichi.

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