How to hold a memorial service for your ancestors effectively


In the first place, go to a stationer and buy a Tanzaku(短冊), a Japanese white strip of paper, 30 to 40cm long.


Not a thin strip of paper but a thick one is preferable. Write down” The So-and-So s’ ancestral spirits’ place” on the paper. Write your family name you now use into the So-and-S0. The last word “place” is important, so make it a little bit larger. You might have some trouble with divorce, but write your family name you’re now using in any case. The color of the words is black and you can use a calligraphy pen as well. Please write it on your own. It doesn’t matter if the words is good or bad in appearance. Tanzaku costs less than 100 yen, I think. Though you stand it on its end, it is OK to lean it against the wall if you don’t have anything to make it stand. You can make it up for yourself, too.

  • in the first place まず第一に
  • stationer 文房具店
  • thin 薄い
  • thick 厚い
  • preferable 望ましい
  • So-and-So 何々
  • ancestral 先祖の
  • divorce 離婚
  • in any case いずれにしても
  • calligraphy pen 筆ペン
  • as well ~も
  • on one’s own 自分自身で
  • matter 重要である
  • in appearance 見た目で
  • less than A A以下
  • stand 立たせる
  • lean 立てかける
  • for oneself 自分で

Toward the Tanzaku, you hold a memorial service for your ancestors during the day. In case you have to go out and cannot make sure the fire you made has gone out, you can do it at night. You offer two Senko(線香), an incense stick,  toward the Tanazaku. One is for your father’s family line, and the other for your mother’s. Then, say several times, silently or aloud , “My ancestors, thank you so much for keeping me alive.”

  • memorial service  供養
  • ancestor 先祖
  • during the day 日中に
  • in case S+V SがVする場合には
  • make sure S+V SがVするということを確かめる
  • offer 捧げる
  • family line 家系
  • several times 数回
  • silently 黙って
  • aloud 声に出して

If you begin to do this, there can be a case where you feel painful somehow. This is because some spirits of your ancestors who don’t rest in peace come close to you. This phenomenon is not unusual. I myself  have experienced it many times, too. It is no wonder, for if you trace back your family line a little, there are many, many ancestors. There are many different ancestors you don’t know.

  • painful 苦しい
  • somehow どういうわけか
  • rest in peace 安らかに眠る
  • phenomenon 現象
  • unusual 珍しい
  • no wonder 不思議ではない
  • for… というのも…だからです
  • trace back A Aをたどる
  • different 様々な

And then, offer another Senko after offering the two, and say in your heart or aloud several times ” Other spirits who have something to do with me, thank you so much for keeping me alive.” Through this service with gratitude, you can make those who have any connection with you relieved. It takes five minutes or so.

  • gratitude  感謝の気持ち
  • relieved  安心した
  • ~or so ~かそこら

If you have a Buddhist altar in your house, you can do the same thing as above toward it. If you don’t have an Ihai(位牌),a mortuary tablet, on which the words “The So-and-So s’ ancestral spirits’ place” are wrriten, then you can put the Tanzaku in front of the Buddhist altar and hold the service. This Tanzaku is Yorishiro(寄り代),a kind of medium on which spirits of your ancestors can alight.

  • Buddhist altar 仏壇
  • medium 媒体
  • alight on A Aに降りて止まる

As for a thing for you to put the Senko in,  a container like a bowl  is preferable. If the remnants of Senko are accumulated too much, the bowl can be hot, so you have to be careful. You should put a plate under the bowl.

  • as for A Aに関して言えば
  • container 入れ物
  • remnant 残り
  • accumulate 蓄積させる
  • plate 皿

Also, you must not break the Senko. If you want to hold a memorial service for your pet animal, it is no problem to break it in two. But to break the Senko for your ancestors intentionally causes an implication that you break up your family line or cut you off from it, to arise at the place, so don’t do that. If you should break it unintentionally, you could use it when you offer Senko for “Other spirits who have something to do with me” or hold a momorial service with gratitude to your pet animal, after doing it for your ancestors.

  • must not ~  ~してはいけない
  • intentinally 意図的に
  • cause A to~  Aが~する原因となる
  • implication 暗示
  • arise 生じる

The third Senko is as long as the first two. If you have a short one, which you broke accidentally, you can use it as the third Senko. Don’t use broken Senko or shorter ones as the first two. Though when you offer the third Senko, the first two Senko have already  become shorter as a matter of course, you don’t have to worry about the length. See to it that the third Senko is as long as the first two or shorter. You don’t have to stay in front of the Tanzaku as long as the Senko are on fire. Please make sure later the fire is dead.  Throw away the remnants of Senko regularly because they can hold heat.

See also:

  • accidendally うっかり
  • as a matter of course   当然のことながら
  • don’t have to~ ~する必要はない
  • worry 心配する
  • length 長さ
  • see to it that… …であるようにする
  • as long as S+V  SがVする間
  • be on fire 火がついている
  • make sure  確かめる
  • throw away A Aを捨てる
  • regularly 定期的に



Thank you so much for keeping us alive.