When people “visit graves,” they express their gratitude to their ancestors before their graves.

Visiting graveyards to rest your ancestor’s soul is called “Haka-mairi”. You can visit the graveyards anytime, but people will usually visit on the same day as the Buddhist memorial service and on the same day of their death.




Obon is the season to visit graveyards.

In Japan, it is customary to visit graves during the obon period.
Ancestors are believed to be enshrined in the graves, resting there. By visiting their graves, people pray for the repose of the souls of the deceased, report to their ancestors of how they are getting along and express their gratitude to their ancestors.



They acknowledge their ancestors by polishing their graves.

A visit to a grave starts by cleaning the grave. After washing and purifying your hands, you collect water in a pail and head to the grave. A pail can be rented free of charge. After joining your hands in prayer, you pour the water onto the tombstone a little bit at a time and carefully wash the tombstone.
After cleaning the grave, you offer foods and fruits that the deceased enjoyed when they were alive. Flowers are also always placed at the grave. Chrysanthemum flowers are typically placed, but any flower the deceased liked may also be placed.
After lighting a candle and offering incenses, you quietly join your hands in prayer.
That is how graves are visited in Japan.


People will visit graveyards at other times besides the Obon season.

I used to go to my parent’s house and spend time with my grandparents and cousins. “Ohaka-mairi”is one of the customs that we do every year. I remember that I had cleaned the graveyard and joined my hands to pray for them when I was little. I sometimes go there now to see my grandparents and talk about my life.

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