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Two societies always have different way of living or culture. Matthew Arnold, a pre-eminent poet of the Victorian Era, stated the meaning of culture as contact with the best which has been taught and said in the world. A pioneer in cultural studies, Raymond Williams, said that cultural is ordinary, lived experience of the everyday. John H. Bodley, chair of the Department of Anthropology at Washington State University, said the culture refers collectively to a society and its way of life or in reference to human culture as a whole.
I have concluded the definition of culture as the ways of life or practises that produce meaning in a society. A society from a multicultural country and another from the land of rising sun are examples of two societies that practice different culture. These two societies are the Malays from Malaysia and the Japanese society. I have decided to compare and contrast between these two societies in certain aspects such as religion, funeral, wedding, etiquette and women status.
Religion is one of the important characteristic of a culture. Religion is the belief in existence of god or gods.
The Malays in Malaysia has only one religion and that is Islam. In Islam, they believe that there is only one god, Allah, and Prophet Muhammad is Allah’s messenger in guiding the Muslims in this world. The Muslims live by following the five rules in ‘Rukun Islam’ that are the saying of ‘dua kalimah syahadah’, the performs of prayers five times a day, fasting in the month of Ramadhan, paying the ‘zakat’ and the perform of hajj.
Unlike the Japanese society, most of them do not believe in god and they do not stick to one religion. There are four religions in Japan, Shinto, Buddhism, Christian and Civil.
For average Japanese, religious affiliation does not translate into regular worship or attendance. Most people visit shrines and temples as part of annual events and special rituals marking life passages. For example, most of them perform the Shinto wedding but they carry out the Buddhist funeral. The Malays follow the Islamic rules in wedding while the Japanese practise the Shinto wedding. There are similarities and differences between the Malay wedding and the Shinto wedding. The Malays sometimes held arranged marriage for their children in order to have a tighter bond between two families.
The groom’s family will first go to the bride’s house to make sure that she is single and available for their son. This ceremony is called the ‘merisik’ ceremony. It is then followed with the engagement ceremony where the groom’s family will send a ring to the bride. The ‘akad nikah’ ceremony follows where the groom says a vow of marriage. After that both of the groom’s and bride’s family will held the ‘walimatul-urus’. It is a feast to announce the marriage of the couple. During this ceremony, food is served to the entire guess and some gifts of appreciation such as eggs, towels and potpourri are given to them.
In return, the guesses usually give some money to the host and gifts to the newlyweds. On the other hand, the Japanese still apply the usage of matchmaker. This is quite similar to the arranged marriage which some Malays still practised. The Shinto wedding also has four main ceremonies. It started with a matchmaker who will look for a suitable man for the young woman. After a suitable man has been found, the matchmaker will convince the woman to attend the ‘omiai’ or arranged meeting. The man and the woman are usually accompanied by close friend and relatives.
The ‘omiai’ will be held at a cosy, conducive and expensive place or restaurant. If they like each other, they will continue to meet and this time without companions. When they are ready for commitment, the ‘yunio’ or the engagement ceremony follows. They will change gifts such as dried bonito, seaweed, fan, dried cuttlefish and abalone but nowadays they will exchange rings. Next is the wedding ceremony and at this ceremony will be held the ‘san-san kudo’ ceremony. It is a ceremony where the bride and groom will exchange three nuptials cup for each of them.
They will drink Japanese liquor, ‘sake’, using those cups. After that, they will procee to the sanctuary and trade twigs of sacred ‘Sakake’ trees in worship to end the ceremony. The Japanese society also gives the bride and groom gifts and some money that has been put into a special envelope tied with red ribbon. Nobody lives till the end of the world. Every culture has its own way of holding a funeral. The Malays society has to go through a few procedures before they can bury the body. First, the family members will bath the body using fragranced water and some herbs.
Then the body will be wrapped in ‘kain kapan’, a piece of white cloth without covering the face. Close relatives and friends will then give the last respect to the dead. Next, the body will be wrapped again in another ‘kain kapan’ including its face and put into a coffin. A ‘sembahyang jenazah’ or prayer for the deceased is performed before the body is taken to the cemetery. At the cemetery, the body is taken out of the coffin, faced the ‘kiblat’ and then being buried. A ceremony called the reading of ‘talkin’ follows. ‘Takin’ is prayers taken from the al-Quran.
The family members then held the ‘tahlil’ ceremony, where ‘Yasin’ and other prayers are being read, three days in a row and on the hundredth day. To show their deepest condolence, the visitors will give some money to the family. The Buddhist Japanese funeral starts by washing the body and dressed in suit for men or white kimono for women. The body will then put into a casket. In the casket, a traditional white kimono, leggings, sandals and paper money also being put as payment to pay the toll to cross the River of the 3 Hells.
Other than this four things, a white headband with a triangle in the centre and things that were fond in life are also put into the casket. Next, the visitors will sign their name in the registry book and present ‘kode,’, the condolence money that has been put into a special envelope wrapped in tiny black and white ribbon to the family after the funeral. At the wake service, the Buddhist priest will turn to the altar, bows, lights incense and reads sutra. During the sutra reading, family members will take turn to bow, offer incense and bow again. This is then followed by the visitors.
The funeral will be held on the day after the wake service. A wooden tablet inscribed the posthumous name of the deceased is placed on the altar in order to prevent the person from returning every time its name is mentioned. The family members and visitors pay the last respect before the casket is sealed. At the crematorium, the body is burned and the family members will use a pair of chopsticks to pick up the bones to put into an urn. The filled urn is wrapped in a white cloth and taken to the cemetery. A memorial service will be held everyday for the first seven days, on the 49th day and on the first year of ‘Obon’ or Festival of the Dead.
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