Our Shokai, who was a funeral director here in Japan for some time, can speak of this much better. However, I experienced this twice in Japan, and I believe it truly lovely.
First, the deceased may be brought home (not everyone does this though
), and placed on a "futon" (with dry ice) while the family ... kids and all ... have a kind of "Irish Wake" around him for 2 or 3 days ... chatting with him, telling stories about him. Then, a kind of bath and dressing is performed, with the whole family taking part. This was the subject of the lovely movie "Departures", which won the Oscar (see below).
The Buddhist priests come at various times to chant this or that.
Oh, and there is a Chanting service where family, friends, co-workers all gather, usually in a temple or rented hall.
Then, the whole family goes to the crematorium, which has a special room where everyone eats and drinks beer while grandpa is burned up.
Then, the whole family ... mothers and dads holding the hands of the smallest kids ... go in a room and, with big chopsticks, move granpa's bones (many still quite recognizable) into the urn. Parents help the littlest kids.
It is sad, but a beautiful experience ... and (in my opinion) rather nicer that the "throw makeup on the body and keep it at a distance" attitude in much of the modern west. The Japanese way is a true GOODBYE, FAREWELL. The preciousness of life is impressed on everyone.
Me, I told my wife to call the public sanitation and haul me away with the old kitchen appliances. Since that is illegal (and after harvesting any organs, although that is just catching on here in Japan), get the cheapest cremation she can find and dump the ashes somewhere on Tsukuba mountain (carefully, cause that is possibly illegal too), maybe a bit under our persimmon tree in the back field. "Think of me once in awhile when you look at the mountain and the tree". 8) **
** However, if anyone really really feels the need to turn me into a mummy ... you have my permission! :roll:
For a more critical, but hilarious look at the funeral business in Japan ... including the monk who comes in his rolls royce ...
THE FUNERAL (older film)
http://www.nytimes.com/1987/10/23/movie ... itami.html