By Billy Hammond (Copyright AELS)

Some of you who come from Japanese-American heritage families who are reading this might recall black and white funeral photos taken outside a Buddhist temple with all those in attendance included in the picture. You might even still have them among your grandparents and great-grandparents effects.


There were many of those photos stored in white muslin bags at my grandparents house and I still recall having been included in a number of them.


My theory on the funeral photos is that they served as a photographic record of those attending the funeral so that the attendance and monetary gift (kōden, or incense [condolence] money) could be reciprocated later on when someone or someone from the family of the attendee passed on. In spite of a record of the kōden collected being kept and given to the family after the funeral, many old folks had very little schooling in Japan and that, combined with the fact that Japan was still using the system of old kanji (kyūkanji) with a huge number of characters, made the kōden record difficult to read and prone to error. The photograph solved this problem through facial recognition – one look at the picture and the family knew who had come to pay their last respects.


In retrospect, it seems to have been quite an innovative invention used by the immigrants to Hawaii to help maintain their custom of reciprocity.











By Billy Hammond (Copyright AELS)


English books by Billy Hammond published by AELS



I. Majoh Gakuin and Hikari Juku – Japanese Witch Schools Trilogy

1. Majoh Gakuin & Hikari Juku – Japanese Witch Schools

2. Lost Witch (The second book)

3. Fate & Magic (The final book in the trilogy)

II. Brindle – Scryer Extraordinaire Trilogy

1. Brindle – Scryer Extraordinaire

2. Brindle – Scryer Extraordinaire – Returns

3. Brindle – Scryer Extraordinaire – Challenges (The final book in the trilogy)

III. Fantasy fiction set in Japan

1. 21st Century Ninja

2. Regressed

3. Japanese Woman

IV. Fantasy fiction set outside of Japan

1. Dimension Jumpers