Tombstone Inscriptions (Bohi-Mei)
What they are
These records are compilations of tombstone inscriptions, in manuscript or published form. They cover the time period from 1600 to the present. A few are lost or destroyed. Since 1945, nearly 100 percent of deceased persons are cremated. Nevertheless, ashes are still buried and gravestones erected.
Since Japan is a very seismically active area, it is not uncommon for strong earthquakes to dislodge or even topple gravestones. A news crew going from Tokyo to Sendai following the 11 March 2011 earthquake and tsunami reported seeing some cemeteries along the way where many stones were not upright. Therefore it may on occasion be necessary to locate the caretakers to be sure of the exact location of the graves of persons they are looking for in areas where strong earthquakes have occurred.
Use these records to
Find the name of the individual, the posthumous name, and the death date of the ancestor.
The typical Japanese tombstone contains the following information:
- The name of the individual and usually posthumous name
- Place of birth
- Age and date of death along with the names of those who put up the marker
- Court rank and honors
- Date, place, and cause of death
- Name, residence, and relationship of his family
Early stones generally give only the name, posthumous name, date of death, and age at death. Some stones bear the family’s heraldic device (mon or kamon), but this may not appear in the transcribed inscription.
How to obtain them
The Family History Library has a few of these records. In Japan, you can go to local cemeteries and temples. Some of them were collected and published in book form, called Sotairoku. These would be in libraries and archives.