On Japanese Memorial Portraits: how to prepare your own portrait-of-the-deceased
(text & photography by Shiho Kito for Yahoo! Japan Featured News)
I learnt many things through my personal loss of my grandfather Takeshi, grandmother Chiyo, and my father Kazuyoshi. Possibly it’s them who had allowed me to look at photographs (especially portraits) with certain awareness – what do photographs conjure up about the sitters, and what has been lost for good?
The idea of this article happened to be in my mind after my realisation of how unique Japanese memorial portraits are. For making regular portrait-of-the-deceased (iei, ‘remained shadow’ in Japanese), most of people use the best, and more importantly, available photograph for their loved ones, which will be cropped later to keep the deceased only. If there are none, an ID photograph (which will be enlarged) will be the option. If they use a group photograph, the foreground and background of the deceased will be eliminated and carefully retouched by an iei retoucher so as not to include any living persons in the image.
In this article, it focuses on the fact that some of the Japanese senior citizens (women, in particular) started preparing their own iei in advance, rather than leaving it to their grieving family. Perhaps, we remain hopeful that we will leave something more than a piece of photograph when the time comes. However, if such iei culture will remain in near future, how we would like to be remembered in afterlife with a piece of photograph? (Yahoo! article is in Japanese only)