Symbol of burials in Yonashiroteruma, Uruma dismantled as cremation takes its place

Symbol of burials in Yonashiroteruma, Uruma dismantled as cremation takes its place

Villagers watching in silence as a monk blesses the ganya. June 24, Yonashiroteruma, Uruma


July 10, 2017 Ryukyu Shimpo

Uruma – The demolition of a ganya, a structure used to store a gan prior to a burial, took place in Yonashiroteruma, Uruma on June 24. A gan is a portable shrine used to carry the coffin. In Okinawa, cremation has long since replaced burial as the norm, and as the ganya was last used sometime around 1960, it was decided that it would be demolished. Around 40 villagers gathered, and watched quietly as a monk performed a rite of gratitude as a send-off.

According to Eibun Goya, 95, in Teruma, a gan must be carried by someone other than the relatives of the deceased.

On the day of the funeral procession, after dusk salt would be deposited in an around the house of the deceased for the purpose of purification, and with a whistle see the deceased off one more time, carrying the gan to a crossroads away from the village.

Goya reflected proudly, “Assembling the gan can take up to half a day if one is unaccustomed. Since I am quite good at putting it together, I was always called upon for funeral services.”

Keiko Fukushi, 71, said, “There was a superstition where if a child pointed their finger at a ganya, they would lose their finger, so if they ever mistakenly pointed at one, they had to put their finger in their mouth and hop on one foot in a circle three times. It was also said that after the coffin was lowered into the grave, the dead would follow, so the weight would not change,” looking upon the ganya that was at times scary but had also become familiar to the people in the area.

Hatsune Inafuku, 76, who’s grandmother’s funeral made use of the gan around 1960, said with feeling, “At the time cremation had already become the norm, however my grandfather said, ‘I will not burn her,’ and so my grandmother was carried on a gan. The ganya [being demolished] is a sign of the times.”

(English translation by T&CT and Sam Grieb)

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