I am going to a Japanese funeral. What do I need to know?
Most Japanese funerals are conducted in traditional Buddhist style. Appropriate funeral attire is a black suit and black tie for men, and a plain but formal black dress for women. A simple pearl necklace is okay for women, but if in doubt not wearing accessories is a good choice. When expressing your condolences, you can say “Kono tabi wa go shushosamadeshita,” which translates roughly to “I extend my greatest sympathies to you on this sad occasion.”
There is usually a reception desk, where you can offer your condolence gift (koden) or place it in the tray next to the register and sign in. This consists of cash in a special envelope called a noshibukuro. The amount varies depending on your relationship with the deceased, but is generally between \3,000 and \10,000. As a general guide, if the deceased is a coworker, or friend it should be between \5,000 and \10,000. Giving old notes is symbolic of being unprepared for an untimely death.
During the ceremony, incense is offered at the altar. When you do this, first bow to the family and priest before you reach the altar, then bow to the photograph of the deceased. Take the incense with your right thumb, index finger, and middle finger, raise it to eye level, then place it in the burner. Incense is usually offered two or three times, but if there are many people attending, it may be less. You can watch the people ahead of you to check how many times to repeat the process. After offering incense, place your hands together as if praying. Bow once more to the family and priest before sitting back down.