“Buy Me a Bride”: Death and Exchange in Northern Japanese Bride-Doll Marriage



In the northern Japanese memorial practice of “bride-doll marriage/” which emerged during World War II, the soul of a dead child is married to a spirit spouse embodied in a consecrated figurine. These marriages stimulate limited exchange relationships between the living and dead by building on old and new modes of gifting and circulation, including the prestation of Bodhisattva statues, affinity, transmigration, and the abstraction of social relations made possible by modern commodity forms. Motivated by a strong sense of unfulfilled obligation toward the deceased, these restricted acts of exchange culminate in the cessation of exchange transactions between the living and specific dead persons. In this respect, spirit marriage is profoundly unlike conventional marriage among the living, which leads to ramifying exchange relations between a growing number of persons over time. [Japan, memorialization, mortuary ritual, commodities, Buddhism]