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They were all color pictures instead of black and white as in most human shrines.

The Quiet of the Grave...And a Nice Commemorative Plate

All the pets shown in these photographs shared similar poses, looking directly into the camera and with similar "expressions" -- one interviewee felt "they are all kind of "smiling" in the pictures. It this shows that they had good relationships when they were alive.

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An executive in one cemetery's business office offered the following reason: "Masters do not want to be included in the picture in shrines because it would bring them fears of being invited to where the pets are now. Exterior Grave Sites. However not all graves are inside a charnel house; we also found exterior cemetery sites. Suburban or country locations are more likely to be outside with grave markers much like human cemeteries. The pet's part of the cemetery is also likely to have a statue of the Goddess of Mercy for animals Junnishi-Kwannon placed in front.

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Incense sticks may be offered and burned at the entrance to the cemetery -- some additional indication that there is a belief in life after death for these animals. In one case we discovered a outside setting with grave stones; nearby there was a stage-like table with clear bottles each containing a pet's photograph. These pictures-in-bottles served as the grave markers for owners who did not purchase or lease an individual or group plot see accompanying photographs.


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But it was sad to notice that many of the color pictures were fading because of exposure to the sunlight and some were becoming damp with exposure to rain and humid weather. Many people interviewed for this study felt they should come to the grave site and pray once a month, similar to patterns for recently deceased human relatives. Business Office personnel told us that between and people visit Jindaiji on an average weekday and around on weekends, especially Sundays and holidays.

One woman felt "her pet might be lonely if she kept away from the cemetery for a long time " -- this would ensure the existence of a pleasant after-life with "quiet sleep" for her pet. Worries about a pet's loneliness were frequently heard. In another example, a woman was pleased to note that these cats can have a nice after life with many other cats. But in one cemetery, exclusively reserved for only dogs and cats, one woman remarked that it was "strange that dogs and cats are buried next to one another because they might not get along and even fight..

What a misfortune. Naturally we sought some understanding for what people felt they were doing when they leased grave sites for their deceased pets in this manner, and specifically when they included photographs. Not surprisingly, we frequently heard: "Because other people do it" and "To console them pets like a human being, you know. Most people interviewed for this study said they came to the grave to "meet" their pet in the cemetery. And as part of "meeting their pets," I was personally interested to learn if visitors used pet cemeteries for purposes of pet-human communication.

Are these photographs used to interact with their deceased animals? Could these images serve as a medium of communication into the pet's afterlife?

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Some people were seen and heard to be mumbling when standing in frontof the grave and staring at the pet's photo. One interviewee stated: "it is easier for people to talk if there is a picture in front of them. In short, it is highly likely that snapshots are used as a channel of communication, not unlike how portraits are used in household butsudans for interpersonal human communication. As many observers have noticed, it is very important for Japanese people to stay in touch with their recently departed relatives.

When asked specifically about the use and appearance of photographs, responses were quite uniform. People stressed the theme of memory retention.

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One person said, "Their memories of playing with their pets are very important for them. So they want to save the memories as photographs. Many interviewees said they wanted to recall the looks of their animal and help keep their memories alive: "To keep the image of a dead pet in their minds.

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In the last quote we heard the phrase "unless people have photographs But because the spirits of them are invisible, they display those pictures so that they can always see them through the photographs. And in other examples, people expressed a desire to extend the "life" of their pets through the use of photographs. In one report, I read "people want to feel like their pets are still alive by seeing pictures One student summarized that these pictures "are not for the animals, but for human beings who take it and see it There is a sense that photographs are capable of more than we in the West generally think.

Relationships to Japanese Culture.


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Before going on, let emphasize that I do not highlight this example of "doubutsu no haka no shashin" as an exercise in exoticising Japan or Japanese culture. Other sources -- especially news reports and feature films as well as the mass media in general -- do that quite well. With some additional work, I would like to see this as a kind of semi-medium-thick description, one that replaces a cockfight with pet cemetery photography, and one that serves as a launching pad into other features and domains of the culture.

A perspective grounded in relating culture to communication should facilitate such an effort as we seek to find connections between such topics as kinship and social organization, ritual behaviors, interpersonal and small group communication, as well as relationships between secular and sectarian behaviors and activities. The doubutsu no haka no shashin I have been discussing play important roles in lives of their Japanese custodians.


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These images have important connections to cultural characteristics well documented in the literature on Japanese society and culture. For instance, using photographs in pet grave sites can be related 1 to the cultural significance of staying connected to the central unit of Japanese social organization, specifically ie or the household, -- but in all published accounts I have read, this notion has not included non-human members.

In turn, we can see relationships 2 to ratifying a sense of personal and group belonging, 3 to taking short and long term responsibility for family members in significant ways, 4 to keeping life orderly and maintaining a good usually meaning pleasant set of personal relationships, 5 to maintaining and reinforcing good memories, and 6 to adhering to beliefs in an after-life-existence. It is perhaps this last point which might enhance a cross-cultural appreciation of photographic representation and communication.. By exploring the cultural significance of doubutsu no haka no shashin we can see connections to animistic beliefs that are so alive and well amidst Japanese daily life.

In turn, we are encouraged to examine an alternative belief system surrounding the making and use of photographs and to reconceptualizing photographs as a medium of information and communication -- perhaps more powerful than we are accustomed. Finally, I am tempted to introduce the notion of a "carrying capacity" of photographic representation. In addition to the functions of social currency previously mentioned, these connections to a belief system as I have described them have given a different sense of power and authority to vernacular photography -- one that varies from what we in the West might normally recognize and accept.

Results of this study are very much of a mid-point. It remains, for instance, to explore how this sub-genre of pictures might be intimately connected to other home media in Japanese society and culture. What relationships can be found to other zones of photograph use and everyday life such as household display, Butsudan portrait photography, carrying of wallet photographs, showing personal pictures at work, taking tourist pictures among others. In yet another context it remains to explore connections between pet grave photographs and broader contexts of memory making, and to understanding how both might be connected to the nostalgia industry in Japan including deep-seeded diary traditions as well as the theme of information management and control.

These questions and problems speak to broader dimensions of the total project. Clearly each of these topics requires much additional time and space. New York: Basil Blackwell. Albuquerque, NM. Hall, Edward T. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Tobin ed. New Haven: Yale University Press. Boston: Little Brown and Co.

The following paper ties together interests in both visual sociology and visual anthropology. Current literary interests in "native voices" and indigenous expression have visual counterparts that have only recently been examined in depth. In past years, however I have tried to bring some of these themes to a sense of "us" -- that is, to dominant, mainstream, middle class Anglo-American culture. The dog became an international superstar after starring in twenty-seven motion pictures. Et seul pour nous amers, amons nous, pauvre chien place your head near mine, as none remained to love me, so let us love each other, my poor dog.

It is clear that the commemoration of animals had become an important facet of how we conceptualise our relationship with the dead, and, deceased, they were often accorded funeral and sepulchral accoutrements equal to, or even exceeding, those assigned to kin. Indeed, the commemorative statue in Edinburgh, its nose stroked for luck by visiting tourists, is an excellent example of the need to monumentalise the relationship between animal and man. During this late nineteenth-century period in which the Parisian animal cemetery was born, pet funerals became all the rage, a sepulchral fad found not only amongst those in Europe, but also in the United States.