Sunday, April 05, 2015
Funerals for Video Tapes and Symbolic Immortality
The image above is part of an advert by a company offering VHS (etc) analogue tape to DVD dubbing services. People send their tapes and photograph albums to the company, which converts the analogue formats to digital and sends the data back to the customers in DVD form.
But what happens to the video tape itself? Should it just go in the trash? What happens if the video tape is of someone deceased? This Japanese company offers an additional service, in the case of one video tape at twice the price of the dubbing itself, funereal mourning rites, at an affiliated Buddhist temple. Customers pay for about $30 USD for a Buddhist priest to chant Buddhist prayers over up to twenty of their VHS video tapes, several times, before eventually disposing of them.
This question would not occur to a Westerner. But in Japan there is a far greater reticence towards destroying visual representations of people since these visual representations are far closer to the persons videoed. Similarly, for example there are also funereal rites for dolls in Japan because dolls are far more felt to have had lives.
So, is there a Nacalian transformation? Do Westerners pay our respects towards diaries, or voice recordings, especially of the dead, for instance?
Funeral rites for visual representations of persons (real or otherwise) may suggests a desire for visual representations of persons to live on - to go to a pictorial heaven as it were, where images live forever in an eternal light.
While I am unaware of a direct transformation, where Westerners pay respect to the linguistic representations of the dead, while they are alive it is found that at least Westerner strive towards 'symbolic immortality,' in the face of "mortality salience" - being required to think about their own death.
When required to think about their death, humans -- or at least Westerners -- attempt to live on in their narratives. The question as to whether Asians attempt to achieve "symbolic immortality" is controversial. Heine, Harihara, and Niiya (2002) found that Japanese do. Kashima, Halloran, Yuki, and Kashima (2004) found that mortality salience produced different effects in Japanese and Westerners. Yen & Cheng (2010) found that Taiwanese do not. Ma-Kellams and Blascovich (2012) found that Asians do other things in the face of death: rather than focus upon symbolic immortality they attempt to enjoy life more.
Heine, S. J., Harihara, M., & Niiya, Y. (2002). Terror management in Japan. Asian Journal of Social Psychology, 5(3), 187–196. Retrieved from
Kashima, E. S., Halloran, M., Yuki, M., & Kashima, Y. (2004). The effects of personal and collective mortality salience on individualism: Comparing Australians and Japanese with higher and lower self-esteem. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 40(3), 384–392.
Ma-Kellams, C., & Blascovich, J. (2012). Enjoying life in the face of death: East–West differences in responses to mortality salience. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 103(5), 773–786. http://doi.org/10.1037/a0029366
Yen, C.-L., & Cheng, C.-P. (2010). Terror management among Taiwanese: Worldview defence or resigning to fate? Asian Journal of Social Psychology, 13(3), 185–194.
This blog represents the opinions of the author, Timothy Takemoto, and not the opinions of his employer.