A 23-year-old undertaker has won a contest at Japan’s biggest funeral exhibition testing the ancient art of dressing the dead.
Rino Terai beat three other finalists at Tokyo’s Life Ending Industry EXPO 2017 on Thursday.
The event celebrates the art of purifying the souls of dead bodies by making the deceased look beautiful according to the Japanese ethnic religion of Shinto.
Tokyo’s Life Ending Industry EXPO 2017 celebrates the art of dressing the dead in a contest
The competition explored rituals associated with Japan’s ethnic religion of Shinto
The religion teaches that dressing the dead helps purify souls before they go to another world
After the ritualistic competition, the winner said: ‘I practiced every day to prepare for this competition.
‘I took videos and made improvements by asking myself, does this look beautiful? Am I treating the deceased kindly?’
Shinto teaches that the soul is impure shortly after death. The process of dressing a body – usually in front of close relatives only – purifies the deceased spirit before it journeys to the ‘other world’.
The contestants were judged on the grace of their movements as they dressed the bodies
They performed the ritualistic routines on live volunteers, with Rino Terai taking the top spot
There is high demand for undertakes in Japan due to the country’s ageing population
Kimura Kouki, head of Okuribito Academy, says Japan’s ageing society has increased demand for undertakers with special skills.
‘There are about 2,000 undertakers whose expertise is in dressing the deceased, but their skills vary a lot,’ he said.
‘I wanted this competition to be a way to spur undertakers to improve their skills.’
The competition celebrates the beauty and grace of the ritualistic dressing of dead bodies
The volunteers were placed on mattresses on a stage, before being dressed by contestants
Finalists were judged on how well they dressed bodies without revealing too much bare skin
The four contestants dressed live volunteers lying on mattresses arranged on a stage.
Three judges observed their efforts as gently funeral music played in the background.
The four were judged on the grace of their movements and their ability to dress the body without revealing too much bare skin.
Akane Matsuda, who watched the competition, said: ‘The movement of their hands were really beautiful.’