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Photo & Video Gallery: November 2, 2005
Yesterday we paid our respects to our friend Seiryu Toguchi, who passed away earlier this week at age 105. He was featured in the November 2005 National Geographic article on longevity. View rare video footage from his funeral and family tomb. Then cast your vote to pick the next destination, and return tomorrow for new postings.
Dan Buettner, Expedition Leader: One of the hazards of doing stories on centenarians is your newfound friends don't often live long. We met 105-year-old Toguchi Seiryu in April. By November when we returned, he passed away, actually just a couple days after we arrived. Of the 33,000 frames that photographer David McLain shot, his favorite was a picture of Toguchi wearing red gloves. Miraculously, we were invited to the funeral.
As a Buddhist priest chanted sutras, friends and family lined up to pay last respects.
Like everyone else, we were getting ready to leave when all of a sudden Toguchi's son came out carrying his remains.
As Toguchi's remains drove off in a Toyota Corolla, one of his friends, a 92 year old, followed in his own unique way.
I asked our interpreter if we could follow and he just laughed at me. He said, "Absolutely not! This is a sacred ceremony for family only." We decided to join anyhow.
We arrived and literally struck off into the jungle where we found a family tomb carved into a hillside. It took four crowbars and 20 minutes to open the crypt door. I assumed the priest was going to put Toguchi's remains inside the crypt. Instead, he pulled out another urn. It turned out to be the urn of his wife who died decades earlier.
When the priest took the lid off, I was thinking to myself I'm seeing something I should not be seeing.
What struck me as almost repulsive at the beginning turned out to be incredibly romantic. He was mingling the remains of the wife with those of Toguchi's... for eternity.
The whole time I was feeling a bit like an intruder and we were filming this whole ceremony, so I thought at anytime it could turn ugly. But then all of a sudden food came out, and we were the first ones served.
Back at Toguchi's house we discovered why we were being treated so well. Although he never saw it because the issue arrived two days after his death, Toguchi's son thought it was so important and so moving that he had it cremated with Toguchi's remains.