Tokyo Damage Report

the passive-aggressive zombies of suburbia

Tama Reien (多摩霊園),  a cemetery that makes Yoyogi Park look like a parking spot. Located in suburban Tokyo (Musashi Koganei is the nearest station). Famous for being the resting place of Yukio Mishima, among others.

Looks pretty normal, right?

But what's that on the center right? Can we get a close-up?

Huh? A slot? What's that about? Let's check the next grave over. . . .

Ah! Same slot, but with a label this time: 御名刺受 (gomeishiuke:  Honorable Business Card Receiver)


Seriously? This sounds like one of those rumors (used panty vending machines, etc.) that people make up to make fun of Japan.  But . . .seriously? 




I mentioned before how death in Tokyo so closely resembles life in it – the rules, the cramped conditions and so on. But I never thought it was THIS MUCH LIKE LIFE. The social obligations just don't stop.

You got to network with the dead.

I asked my Japanese friends if this was a common tradition, and they all seemed as surprised as I was. One pal suggested that the 'gomeishiuke' was something that you'd get if you were a successful businessman, and other businessmen were expected to visit you and pay their respects.


But to me, it's just another sign that suburban fucks are the most uptight fucks ever – all over the world. These ghosts want to keep track of who visits and who doesn't.


Here I am, applying for an internship as "brain donor."


Below, another deluxe grave. Now that you know what to look for, can you spot the gomeishiuke slot?


Below, a slightly more fancy one. Besides the rad new-wave font, it has what all the top-end gomeishiukes have: AN AWNING.  I'm trying to imagine the meeting where the salesman tries to convince the grieving widow that the awning is the IDEAL way for her to honor poor ol' Ryousuke.

Below: a non-standard design . . .  which seems to be rolling on spinnas. Maybe a baller is interred here???

below. . . another odd design (can you find it?) . . .this one seems to be disguised as a public mail-box.


below. . . can you spot THIS one?


below: a more rustic, rough  design, suitable to this very jungley gravesite:


below: one of my favorites: the gomeishiuke is bigger than the grave itself! Perhaps the deceased had some sort of inferiority complex in life.

below: a Chinese Pagoda style- pretty common.

below: a variation on the usual nomenclature:

"gomeishi haijuu" –  literally "Bend your knees in veneration as you present your business card."

Or maybe more like, "receiving the business card at the time of honorable veneration."


Below: this guy.


below: another variation: can you spot the difference?

below: the most deluxe one I could find:  not only does the awning run ALL THE WAY AROUND,  but there's a nice 3-D design on the front, and not one but TWO slots. One for cards and the other for – who knows? Demo tapes? Resumes?  Pizza? Bribes???

despite all the variations, I deduced some basic rules.

1) the gomeishiuke is usually on the right side.

2) on grave sites where there's already a lot of clutter, they tend to get a free-standing gomeishiuke, but on more minimal sites, it's discreetly built-in to the front gatepost.

Can you spot this one?


Below: crazy , crazy shit. Although this looks like a Western tombstone, it's not the main grave. It's a giant marker announcing that the gravesite is affiliated with a local christian church.

. . and in the corner of this huge-ass monument:

Below – if you spend enough time riding around a cemetery in the blazing heat, looking for hidden things and secret slots, it starts to mess with your mind.  . .

Allright, see you clowns next time. And remember:  these dead people are keeping track of you! Your dead boss is watching to make sure you do all the overtime, and go to all the meetings. The zombie meetings. I sort of imagine all the ghosts in a cave underneath the cemetary, all sitting around some ghostly table and exchanging cards. "Miita Masahiro: Vice-President of Curses; Chain-Rattling Department."

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5 Comments so far

  1. james August 31st, 2010 9:35 am

    And just when I thought the Japanese business card culture was complex enough, they got take that shit to the next level…er…life. But… what happens when these things get stuffed with too many cards? I mean, some of those things look like there isn't even a way to empty them out. Do the the ghost secretaries take care of that or what?

  2. admin August 31st, 2010 10:39 pm

    @james: naw, the ghost secretaries make the ghost tea. The gomeishiuke have little doors in back (sometimes stainless steel, usually granite) for living folks to collect the cards. There’s probably some rule about whose job it is to collect the cards. Anybody know?

  3. Jason September 2nd, 2010 2:32 am

    I'd love to have a grave as big as some of these. With my own exclusive seat and everything.

  4. Tjolf September 3rd, 2010 3:53 pm

    Is there a hole at the back for removing the cards?

  5. Furyou_Gaijin September 13th, 2010 4:54 am

    Not only suburbian, they have them in Aoyama Cemetery too:

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