chapter  5
21 Pages

Funeral-while-alive as Experiential Transcendence

ByHIKARU SUZUKI

Seizenso-, literally meaning ‘funeral-while-alive’, is a self-executed funeral performed while still active. Popular TV icons and famous people conducting funeral-while-alive, and their media coverage, have had much to do with its development and spread amongst common people.1 The first funeral-whilealive was carried out by the well-known Japanese singer Mizunoe Takiko. The TV broadcast of her funeral-while-alive was a revelation to the Japanese populace and very influential. The deceased-to-be Mizunoe described her funeral-while-alive by saying, ‘I wanted to express my appreciation to all those who have been dear to me while I am still alive’ (Ei 1994: 104). This first funeral-while-alive took place at the Tokyu-Hotel on 19 February

1992. The organiser of the ceremony, Ei Rokusuke, describes its success in his book, Happy Ending (Daio-jo-). He wrote, ‘Mizunoe’s funeral-while-alive was a humorous take on the common funeral ceremony. It followed the same practices as in typical funerals, such as the burning of incense to the deceased and the reading of memorial addresses’ (Ei 1994: 104). What was different, however, was the way in which the sutra chanting and music were presented. Ei edited and composed a tape that was a mixture of sutra chanting and music from various genres. He included Buddhist sutra, Loran prayers, Chopin’s ‘Funeral Procession’, Tibetan sutra, carols, Mozart’s ‘Requiem’, and other elements. These musical selections were each edited down to one or two minutes to make a 20-minute tape. While the tape was played, the deceasedto-be’s friends and colleagues presented memorial addresses while the deceased-to-be made comments. As the last song on the tape played, piquantly ‘Santa is Coming to Town’, the participants began to clap their hands and the funeral turned into a cheerful party (Ei 1994: 106). Ei writes that Mizunoe’s funeral-while-alive was indeed a beautiful and joyful funeral. Inspired, he phoned the ‘deceased’ Mizunoe next day to congratulate her on her effort. The once dead, Mizunoe answered Ei’s phone and said, ‘You should die too. It’s a glorious morning after death!’ (ibid.: 95).