Nenki (年忌)

Nenki is an anniversary of the death of a person. Nenki also refers to the Buddhist service held on that day. In Japanese Buddhism, a hoyo (Buddhist memorial service) held in a certain number of years after the person's death is called "Nenki hoyo" (Nenkai hoyo). Nenki hoyo is held for kuyo (to pray for the repose of the dead).

As the believers of the Jodo Shishu sect do not pray for the dead, nenki hoyo is a chance to touch the teachings of Buddhism.


After the chuin (a period of mourning lasting seven weeks) (the end of chuin is also called "kiake," which means the end of mourning), on the one hundredth day after the death, a hoyo of hyakkanichi (one hundredth day) is held. The three types of hoyo, hyakkanichi, isshuki (the first anniversary of one's death), and sankaiki (second anniversary of one's death), were added by the influence of religious services of Chinese Confucianism. These are based on the belief called 'jyuoshinko' in which the dead should receive ten judgments, from each of the ten kings of the realm of the dead, on ten specific days consisting of eight kinichi (specific days after death) of every seventh day starting from the shonanoka (the sixth day after the death) until the shijukunichi (the forty-ninth day after death), Hyakkanichi (the one-hundredth day after death) and two nenki, the isshuki and the sankaiki. Jyuoshinko began in China after the introduction of Buddhism and has been shared with Taoism. The meaning of the hoyo of kinichi and nenki is to hope that the pious act of tsuizen (ceremony as a memorial) kuyo held by the bereaved may provide help for the dead at the judgment.

Hoyo of shichikaiki (the sixth anniversary of one's death) and after were added originally in Japan. Jyuoshinko spread in Japan in the eleventh century and after. After that, in the Kamakura period, sichikaiki. jyusankaiki (the twelfth anniversary of one's death) and sanjyusankaiki (the 32nd anniversary of one's death) begun to be held. They are based on the Jusanbutsu shinko (Thirteen Buddha beliefs). The Jusanbutsushinko regards each king of the jyuoshinko as a suijaku (temporary manifestation) of Buddha, and the original Buddha or Bosatsu has been assigned to each of the ten kings. The hoyo of each time is held with each Buddha or Bosatsu as the honzon (principal object of worship).

In the Shinto religion, as it is considered that when the sanjyusankaiki is reached the aramitama (stormy spirit) changes to nigimitama (mild spirit) and to mioyanomitama (ancestor's spirit), the sanjyusankaiki is treated as a turning point. In some Buddhist sects in Japan, it may be considered by the influence of the syncretism of Shinto and Buddhism that the individual spirit will become unified with the sosen shin (ancestral god) at the time of the sanjyusankaiki or the gojyukaiki (the 49th anniversary of one's death).

It is based on the sankonshichihaku of Confucianism that all the nenki, including other than those mentioned above, are held generally at intervals of multiples of three or seven.

The jyusankaiki may also be considered one round of jyunishi (twelve signs of the Chinese zodiac) and the nijjyugokaiki (the 24th anniversary of one's death) two rounds or half of the gojyukai onki (the 49th anniversary of one's death).

Generally, the gojyukaiki and the nenki after it are called onki (far nenki).

List of nenki hoyo

Hoyo held on the shotsuki meinichi (the same month and the same day of month of death) in certain years are called nenki hoyo. Generally, these hoyo listed below are held, although some difference may exist depending on the sect and region. Although it is best for hoyo to be held on the shotsuki meinichi, if it is impossible to be held on the day, it generally will be held before the day.

Hyakkanichi - also called "Sokkoki"

Isshuki - the first shotsuki meinichi after death (the next year). Generally, the period from the death to this day are called "mochu" (period of mourning). There is a case that the period of mochu is thirteen months according to the law of mourning in the Meiji period.

Sankaiki - the shotsuki meinichi two years after death. Generally, relatives are gathered until the sankaiki.

Shichikaiki - the shotsuki meinichi six years after death.

Jyusankaiki - the shotsuki meinichi twelve years after death.

Jyushichikaiki - the shotsuki meinichi sixteen years after death.

Nijyusankaiki - the shotsuki meinichi twenty two years after death.

Nijyugokaiki - the shotsuki meinichi twenty four years after death.

Nijyushichikaiki - the shotsuki meinichi twenty six years after death.

Sanjyusankaiki - the shotsuki meinichi thirty two years after death.

Sanjyushichikaiki - the shotsuki meinichi thirty six years after death.

Gojyukaiki or Gojyukai onki - the shotsuki meinichi forty nine years after death.

After that, nenki with a period of fifty years are held, such as the Hyakkai onki (ninety ninth year), the Hyakugojyukai onki (one hundred and forty ninth year), and so on.

There are differences in nenki depending on sect and region.

Such differences are significant on the Nijyusankaiki, Nijyugokaiki, Nijyushichikaiki and Sanjyushichikaiki.

There are cases such as performing Nijyusankaiki and Nijyushichikaiki or performing Nijyugokaiki only. Also there is a case of not performing the Sanjyushichikaiki.

It is general practice to let the Sanjyusankaiki or the Gojyukai onki be the last nenki, and the last nenki are called "tomuraiage" or "toikiri" (both the last memorial service). At this time, donationis often made to the temple requesting eitai kuyo (to perform memorial service for a longer period).

[Original Japanese]