Oihai memorial tablet
The Oihai is a memorial wooden tablet that is inscribed with the posthumous Buddhist name of a deceased person to enshrine their spirit.
The tablet was named Oihai (literally, ‘rank’ tablet) because it was considered to be the same as shinshu (a tablet inscribed with the official rank and name of a deceased person) used for Confucian funeral traditions in China. The origin of Oihai is said to have come from the Sotoba (Small Stupa) which is usually seen as a tall, tower-shaped wooden tablet set up behind a grave for the repose of the dead found at Buddhist temples.
Different types of Oihai
Oihai are generally categorized into three distinct types: Uchi-Oihai (Shiraki-Oihai, or literally, plain wood ihai), hon-ihai (Nuri-Oihai, or lacquered ihai), and Tera-Oihai (literally, temple ihai).
Uchi-Oihai are simple Oihai made of plain wood which is inscribed with the posthumous Buddhist name, the secular name (name before death), the date of death, and the age at death (or to which paper inscribed with these is attached). No-Oihai (temporary ihai) is created immediately after death and used for the temporary altar and the funeral. When a deceased person is buried, No-Oihai will be placed over the ground until the memorial service on the forty-ninth day after the death or the decay of no-ihai itself. When a deceased person is cremated, No-Oihai will be taken home and enshrined on a chuin-dan (a temporary home altar to enshrine the ashes until the memorial service on the forty-ninth day after the death and the interment ceremony). No-Oihai is burnt after the chuin-dan is cleared (i.e., after uchi-Oihai is created and the spirit of a deceased person is transmitted from No-Oihai to Hon-Oihai).
Hon-ihai is an Oihai created by the day of the memorial service on the forty-ninth day after the death to substitute No-Oihai with. It is a gorgeous lacquered Oihai decorated with gold beautiful lacquer and gold painted characters for the Kaimyo (Buddhist Name). Hon-Oihai is to be enshrined in a Buddhist altar for many future generations. There are two types of Hon-ihai: fuda-ihai and kuridashi-ihai. Fuda-ihai is an ihai inscribed (or engraved) with the posthumous Buddhist name(s) of one person or more such as husband and wife on the surface. Sometimes when a spouse survives their loved one, the name of the person on Oihai is inscribed in red vermilion when he/she is still alive. There is a wide style of Oihai for more than one person, called Habahiro-Oihai. Kuridashi-Oihai is an Oihai that has many family members Oihai located inside in a row, each of which are inscribed with the posthumous Buddhist name of a deceased person and their information.
In addition to Hon-Oihai, an Oihai called Tera-Oihai that is presented to one’s family temple or head temple together with donations for memorial services. At a temple, Tera-Oihai are enshrined in the Oihai-do (hall for Oihai) or the main hall and are prayed to during the devotional exercises of the morning and evening. Also, they are kept in the temple for the Eitaikyo (Perpetual Memorial Service), in which the tablets are kept and prayed for multiple times a year.
Are you interested in purchasing a traditionally made Oihai by Mr. Isamu Seki? Please contact us to discuss your wished using the form below.