Grieving for objects in Japan

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Funeral at Kofuku-ji for AIBOs (Courtesy Independent)

Various news sources have been reporting on the funerals being held for AIBO robot dogs in Japan. Since Sony stopped repairing and making spare parts for AIBOs, the dogs have been slowly “dying out.” In response to this, Buddhist priests have been holding funeral services for them. [Read more]

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4 Comments

Filed under Nature & Environment, Rituals & Festivals, Shinto / Japanese Religion

4 responses to “Grieving for objects in Japan

  1. I agree with the idea that spirits can attach themselves to inanimate man-made objects, and that said objects should be treated with respect. It may seem childish to others, but I still have a stuffed dinosaur that I got as a kid. I won’t give him up, either; I intend to be cremated with him when I die. If he has to go before I do, there will be a funeral for him. I’ve had him for far too long to just throw him away in the trash; even if he has no spirit, he is still a part of myself and he deserves a proper service just as much as I do.

    Also, as an animist, it seems to me that even man-made objects can have spirits, and for two reasons. First, even man-made objects are made from natural elements (e.g., minerals, plants, etc.), and if you’re an animist, these things already have spirits to begin with. So why can’t a computer have a spirit just like a tree or a lake? And second, even if man-made objects do not inherit spirits from the substances of which they’re made, spirits can still be called into them with procedures like the Egyptian Opening of the Mouth ceremony. So there is absolutely nothing ridiculous to me about grieving over manufactured items to which we develop emotional attachments, especially when said items are intended to resemble living things anyway.

    • That’s true – in so many cultures, items made to resemble living things (especially dolls) are attributed with special powers and must be treated with respect; Japan is no different, where there’s a lot of superstition regarding dolls. While I personally tend to see raw nature (mountains, trees etc.) as more spiritually powerful than man-made objects, I can also sympathise with the idea that an object made by a person can somehow have a part of the maker’s spirit within them, which is why they should be respected.

  2. Pingback: [Monday] Idea of the Week | of the Other People

  3. Reblogged this on Sage and Starshine and commented:
    I’ve been thinking about this through the Otherfaith, which does encourage the adoption of an animistic worldview and a respect for technology in general. If we grieve for the objects we lose and value the relationships we have with them, then, as this post suggests, can we learn to move past our hyper-disposable world where things are just things?

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