Dolls get 'soul sendoff' for the afterlife in animist Japan

AFP
Hundreds of dolls, from Hello Kitty to Disney favourites, are packed to the ceiling at a funeral home near Tokyo.
AFP
AFP

Dolls like this Hello Kitty version are sometimes given a ceremonial sendoff for the afterlife in Japan

Hundreds of dolls, from Hello Kitty to Disney favourites, are packed to the ceiling at a funeral home near Tokyo.

But they're not here for show: the dolls destined for dumpsters are getting a final sendoff for the afterlife.

The ceremony this week underlines Japan's still-strong belief that all things -- from shrimps and eggs to scissors and rocks -- have a soul.

About 20 doll owners chanted a sutra with Buddhist monk Shingyo Goto as he performed the sendoff ceremony in the doll-stuffed room, filled with the heady scent of incense.

"We believe a soul lives inside dolls, so I perform a service to take the spirits out of them and express the feeling of gratitude to them" before bidding them farewell, said Goto, who lives at the prestigious Yakushiji temple in the ancient city of Nara.

Japan's neon-lit capital may look ultra-modern, but many in the country of 127 million still hold tightly to longstanding traditions, including the animist beliefs linked to its dominant religions: Buddhism and native Shintoism.

And so ceremonies to bid farewell to inanimate objects -- including dolls -- are not uncommon.

The funeral home hosting this week's memorial charged 500 yen ($4.50) for each doll's soul sendoff.

"All things have a soul in it regardless of what it is, from a needle, a pair of scissors to an egg, and we live thanks to those things," Goto said after the ceremony in Yokohama south of Tokyo.

"We have to have the feeling of appreciation for all things."


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