Everything — and we mean everything — can be made into a contest. This latest event proves it.
Japanese undertakers descended on their professional expo, which featured a contest to best dress a corpse. In the end, a 23-year-old undertaker, Rino Terai, gave the dearly departed the best look for the journey to afterlife.
After her win over three other finalists, Rino smiled and said, “I practiced every day to prepare for this competition.”
"I took videos and made improvements by asking myself, does this look beautiful? Am I treating the deceased kindly?”
The competition explored rituals associated with Japan’s ethnic religion of Shinto. The event celebrates the art of purifying the souls and the beauty and grace of the ritualistic dressing of dead bodies.
Japan’s Shinto religion believes that the soul is impure shortly after death and the process of dressing a body, usually in front of close relatives only, purifies the deceased spirit before it is sent off to the “other world.”
The four contestants dressed live human volunteers laying on mattresses arranged on a stage. They were observed by three judges as funeral music gently played in the background. The contestants were judged on the grace of their movements and their ability to dress the body without revealing too much bare skin.
"The movement of their hands were really beautiful," Akane Matsuda said after watching the competition.
Kimura Kouki, head of Okuribito Academy, says there is a high demand for undertakers with special skill in Japan due to the country’s ageing population.
“There are about 2,000 undertakers whose expertise is in dressing the deceased, but their skills vary a lot,” he said. “I wanted this competition to be a way to spur undertakers to improve their skills.”