Posts about Coffinman: The Journal of a Buddhist Mortician written by Scott W. Smith. This story looks at one man’s very personal struggle to engage his Shin Buddhist faith to make sense of his experiences with the dead and dying. Shinmon Aoki. This is the true diary of a Buddhist mortician. His reflections on death and dying draw deeply on his faith as a Shin Buddhist, as well as on his appreciation of.

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Shinmon Aoki is the author of two poetry collections and a selection of essays in Japanese. He lives in Toyama, Japan. Would you like to tell us about a lower price? If you are a seller for this product, would you like to suggest updates through seller support?

Coffinman: The Journal of a Buddhist Mortician by Shinmon Aoki

This story looks at one man’s very personal struggle to engage his Shin Buddhist faith to make sense of his experiences with the dead and dying. Shinmon Aoki is forced by extreme financial circumstances into a job in one of the most despised professions in Japanese society, that of the nokanfuone who washes and prepares dead bodies for burial. Shunned by family and friends and burdened by his own initial revulsion for his work, Coffinkan throws himself into the job with a fervor that attracts the attention of the townsfolk and earns him the title of Coffinman.

In this spiritual autobiography, Aoki chronicles his progression from repulsion to a gradual bjddhist of the tranquility that accompanies death. He assists the uninitiated in gaining an understanding of the basic principles of Shin Buddhism and its concepts of death and dying. Also included are definitions of key terms and phrases and a bibliography. Read budehist Read less.

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Coffinman : the journal of a Buddhist mortician

Share your thoughts with other customers. Write a customer review. Showing of 5 reviews. Top Reviews Most recent Top Reviews. There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later. It’s insightful, poetic and a bit of an eye-opener in terms of bringing “death” out of the closet, and giving it a respected and transparent place in day-to-day life. This book also makes one aware of the cultural nuances of Japan, both in their art of spoken language and of their take on day-to-day life.


The book is a real gem. It is well written, and shares interesting, if not profound, views of death. Already have told a dozen or so people to read this. It is also several Buddhist teachings made easy. In Japan, there’s no job lower than washing corpses and putting them in coffins. This was, as Shinmon Aoki wryly tells us, not his dream job. He had dropped out of college, opened a coffee shop and pub, and soon found himself running a hangout for poets and artists.

A well-known novelist encouraged him to write; he got his first story published in a classy magazine. Soon he was neglecting his business he filed for bankruptcy as his wife was giving birth. There wasn’t even money for baby food. So when he saw a want ad “for ceremonies to start a new life” he jumped at the job. Only when he started work did he see the stack of coffins. The book begins on Aoki’s first day. You’ve got to wipe them down with alcohol, put them in their white ‘Buddha-robes,’ fix their hair and faces.

Why am I shoving such unpleasantness your way, as if it were a gift? Because this page book is unlike anything I’ve ever read. As memoir, it’s fascinating. As philosophy, it’s refreshing. As spirituality, it’s lovely and reassuring. You definitely get your money’s worth from Shinmon Aoki. Ten pages in, and Aoki is getting beyond the horror. Driving home, he notices thousands of red dragonflies flying into the sunset.

He realizes that they’ve been doing this “from the past beyond all reckoning. He had never met the man. Indeed, he’d never resolved the relationship with the woman. But now he is locked in a profound moment with her, a moment “that transcended the trivial world of scorn or pity or sympathy. And that opens him up more. He decides to claim a better opinion of coffinmen by wearing doctor’s clothes. He gets respect from families and priests. And now he is ready to change his view of death.

In Part II, the cases are just as unattractive. But Aoki has changed. He sees a glow around people, the sparkle of the day, the glory of the world and the insignificance of death. The final section of the book deals with the Buddha and with Buddhist thought.

It’s a bit technical, but not esoteric. And it feels right the coffinman’s passage is from horror of death to a deep appreciation of dying. Because the book is short and fascinating, you get there with him, and very quickly.

Whether you can hold that thought is another matter. I’ll be thinking about this short book for a long time. This book has some really profound moments, examining death and life “LifeDeath” in light of the teachings of Shinran and of Jodo Shinshu Shin Buddhism.

What kept it from being a five-star book was that much of the book specifically the first section and the latter half of the final section was too disjointed and culturally-specific for my taste.


The moments of clarity, when they come, though, are quite insightful and inspiring. Author Aoki worked as a coffinman a corpse washer or mortician, apparently a job held in low esteem by the Japanese for many years, and his practical experience with death and the dead have informed his understanding of Buddhism in general, and Shin Buddhism in particular.

Coffinman: The Journal of a Buddhist Mortician – Shinmon Aoki – Google Books

In the second section, “What Dying Means,” he explores the universalism of Journa, Buddhism in practical terms. It is not some theological or Buddhological argument morticuan has swayed Aoki to accept Shin’s “gospel” of universal enlightenment; rather, it is his everyday experience of seeing radiant peace on the faces of the dead. It doesn’t matter whether their beliefs were thick or thin, whether they belonged to this denomination or that ,whether they were interested in religion or not.

Nothing they have done goes to making the dead wear such gentle morticjan. Many [Shin commentaries] say the good person relies on self-power in an effort to achieve birth in the Pure Land, while coffinjan evil person does not operate in that way. Various explanations are brought forth, but the peaceful composure of the faces of the dead are completely oblivious to these weary arguments. Shinran’s evaluation of the Larger Sutra of Infinite Life the foundational text of Shin Buddhismas the core scripture of the Buddhadharma, came not from its intellectual or theological content, but from the fact that in the text, attention is drawn to Shakyamuni Buddha’s radiant visage.

For Shinran, as for Coffinman Jourrnal, this radiance calls to mind the radiant peace on the face of the dead, and is thus the only real support that the Shin Buddhist gospel of universal salvation and enlightenment in the Pure Land requires.

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Coffinman: The Journal of a Buddhist Mortician

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