A cemetery is a garden: on losing my grandparents

Throughout my life, both grandparents on my mother’s side lived just 10 minutes away from us, in their own house with a small garden and a chicken coop. They visited nearly every Sunday for dinner, took us on trips into the woods, walked us home from kindergarten, nursed us back to health when we were sick, let us watch TV shows that we weren’t allowed to watch at home, and generally spend so much time with us that it’s hard to compress every memory into a list of activities.

My grandfather passed away in 2018. His death was slow and somewhat foreseeable, he was diagnosed with cancer and spend the last weeks before his passing at the hospital in the palliative ward. My grandpa’s death was the first time in my life that I experienced genuine grief.

One of my strongest associations with my grandpa is his garden, which is also the ground on which my parents build our house on. He spent nearly every day, whether it was sunny, rainy, or snowy, in that garden while my grandma played with us on the terrace. I wanted to preserve his memory somehow, so I interviewed my grandma about him and recorded the conversation we had one sunny afternoon in July 2022.

My grandmother died on the 13th of February 2023. While her death was sudden and completely unexpected, the loss I felt was in a much calmer and quietly excepting way. I found my reaction to her death very confusing, my therapist told me that this can often occur when one had a good relationship with the person that passed. I remember my grandma as an open, friendly, and fundamentally good person, one you could talk about anything or nothing with, who accepted you as you are and that was just generally such a light in other people’s lives.

Editing the interview now was a sometimes sad, sometimes funny, and often slightly bizarre experience: normally, when I listen to interview recordings, it is pretty clear to me which oddities of a voice I can leave in to give the recording more character and which ones should be cut. But because I was so used to hearing my grandma’s voice, it became really challenging to decide what to cut and what not. I took the sound clips from the beginning and the end of the audio while walking to the cemetery where they are buried, the first one when I took the interview with my grandma and the second one a few weeks ago. While these audio bites sound extremely similar, a lot of tears were shed between the first and last recording.

in the bottom left: my grandparents, near the cemetery they are now buried in


The Rise of Jirai Kei, fashion and lifestyle

CW: mental health, suicide, self-harm

地雷系 Jirai Kei is a fashion trend that gained popularity on social media platforms like TikTok around 2019/2020.

It literally translates to „landmine-type”, stemming from the from phrase 地雷を踏んだ (“I stepped on a landmine”). It is also a Japanese slang term for “trigger” and describes a person that is easily triggered over minor events, keeps exploding with abusive behaviour, which makes interacting with them as if you’re walking around a minefield.

Stylistically, people who dress in Jirai fashion place a heavy focus on their eye make-up, with the goal to exaggerate their eyes to simulate the teary state of the pleading emoji. By applying red and pink eyeshadow to the under-eye area, using downturned black eyeliner and brown contacts to make the eyes look bigger, it creates a look as if the person is always near tears or cried already.

While there is definitely nothing wrong with having a distinct fashion style, one that in this case can be best described as “dark but cute” with its mostly black and pink colour palette, the public
image towards the Jirai Kei aesthetic in some areas of Japan is extremely negative because the fashion originated in Kabukicho. The entertainment district in Shinjuku, Tokyo, is mostly known
for its many host-, hostess-, nightclubs and love hotels. In the last years it also became a temporary home for many toyoko kids (teen runaways), whose behaviour is highly associated with binge drinking, heavy partying, self-harm, suicide, sex work and other “shocking” or
“rebellious” behaviour.

Therefore, at least in Japan, Jirai Kei as a fashion style is hard to separate from the lifestyle, due to the prevalence of overlap between the two. And there are sadly arguments for the trendiness of Jirai Kei contributing to real life consequences, such as increased rates of self-harm amongst teens. However, this cannot be seen as an isolated phenomenon and reveals more about the still silent treatment surrounding mental health and the ongoing lack regarding awareness and support of those who suffer from it in huge parts of Japanese society.

I thus find it very fitting that a part of the population who is desperately in need of help but seems to be disregarded as just going through a “rebellious phase” look like they are constantly on the verge of crying.

@yume.chii on Instagram