Dave and I went to the wake of our dear friend Seiji Nakayama yesterday. He died aged 47, saving his and another child from a river. He was a great guy, loved by everyone.
The wake couldn't do him justice. The sheer numbers made that impossible. 700 people came to pay their respects, but only 20 could fit into the tiny room. Everyone else crowded on the stairs or huddled in their hundreds on the street on the cold February night.
Most (including us) weren't aware the wake had begun. The funeral hall staff were busy noisily putting gifts into bags and lining people up on the stairs. The lucky 50 or so of us crowded in the lobby strained to hear what was being said on the tiny tv screen. Other close friends, shivering in the street, were oblivious to the ongoing ceremony.
Seiji’s wife Peco gave a lovely, moving tribute to her husband. Her band played a favorite song. Lyrics were handed out to sing along but so many of his friends were unable to take part in the ceremony.
By contrast, the day of the funeral was relaxed and informal. A number of us gathered at the futsal court where Seiji was a coach, player and where his classroom is. His soccer friends played a game as if their life depended on it! His female friends chatted. The hearse and a bus full of mourners came from the funeral hall. Some joined in on the soccer in full mourning black. Peco held a framed picture of Seiji as she played in Seiji's old footy shoes. Dave narrowly avoided breaking the glass as he passed the ball..… It was more relaxed and we could freely talk about Seiji and what he meant to us.
I recommend you take some time to think what kind of wake / funeral you want. Music, atmosphere, location: all important factors for a fitting send off. Expense.
In my case, I’d like everyone to be able to tell stories of our shared experiences, listen to songs (Dave can choose) and have as good a time as possible considering it’ll be my death that brings everyone together. Toast my life with songs, alcohol and laughter.
Good - bye Seiji. We will miss you. We won't forget you.
Do you have any experiences of wakes in Japan? What would you like your wake to be like?