Term Definition
Issei A Japanese language term used to specify the first generation of a Japanese family to immigrate from Japan.
Nisei Children of the Issei (the first American-born generation).
Nikkei A Japanese immigrant (or a descendant thereof) who is not a citizen of Japan.
Cenotaph A memorial monument erected for a person whose remains are buried elsewhere. There is at least one cenotaph in the Auburn Cemetery and at least two cenotaphs in other cemeteries for people buried in the Auburn Cemetery.
Jizō (Ojizō-sama) A Japanese guardian deity. Jizō statues are sometimes erected in places where tragedies occurred, especially those involving children. Two Jizō statues remain in the Auburn Pioneer Cemetery to commemorate the Kato children.
Obon "Festival of the Dead"; a Buddhist festival usually held in July or August to welcome the return of the spirits of the ancestors. Many people celebrate by hanging paper lanterns or by performing folk dances and music.
Kanji Written symbols, originally from Chinese, used in written Japanese. Along with hiragana and katakana, kanji is one of the three main writing systems for the Japanese language. The majority of the Japanese tombstones placed prior to World War II are written in these traditional characters.
Romaji A system for writing Japanese words phonetically using Roman symbols (the English alphabet). In essence, the English alphabet is used phonetically in place of hiragana, katakana, and kanji. The stones for the more modern Japanese burials in the cemetery are written in romaji/English.
A posthumous Buddhist name, also known as a "dharma name." The usual hōmyō is comprised of 3 or 4 kanji starting with shaku (釋) for men or shaku-ni (釋尼) for women (note: The few Kaimyo that have been translated seem to indicate that "Shaku" was used for both men and women in the Auburn Pioneer Cemetery). This is followed by two kanji which comprise the individual's posthumous name. Most of the cemetery’s Japanese language markers include the deceased person’s hōmyō in the inscription’s central column.
The two kanji characters in the hōmyō which represent the person's actual name (as opposed to characters which are included in the hōmyō as prefixes or suffixes). The kaimyō serves as a posthumous name that the deceased will be known by in the afterlife.
Some hōmyō and almost all kaimyō have suffixes called igō, such as shinji (信士) for men or shinnyo (信女) for women or the more honorific koji (居士) for men and daishi (大姉) for women. There are different igō for children and infants; these are particularly important as at least 70 percent of the Japanese-language tombstones in the Auburn Pioneer Cemetery mark the graves of infants or children. See the next three terms for commonly used examples.
An igō (suffix) to a kaimyō or hōmyō that indicates a stillborn child or one who died shortly after birth. Historically, the proper translation of the term is suishi or suiji although more recently, the reading of these kanji as mizuko has become more common.
An igō (suffix) to a kaimyō or hōmyō that indicates a male child. It would be used for children of up to about 15 years old.
An igō (suffix) to a kaimyō or hōmyō that indicates a female child. It would be used for children of up to about 15 years old.
Nengō Although Japan has used the Gregorian Calendar since 1873, it also continues to use a calendar system called nengō. In this system, the year is named for the imperial era plus the year within the given emperor’s reign; for example, the Gregorian year 2010 corresponds to the nengō year Heisei 22 (or H22)—Heisei is the current imperial era in Japan and 2010 was the 22nd year of the current emperor’s reign.

In Japan, there is a preference for nengō dates on official or government documents. According to our translator, many of the older Japanese tombstones in the Auburn cemetery employ nengō—rather than Gregorian—dates.
Double Wisteria Crest A symbol of Jodo Shinshu Buddhism. It appears on many of the tombstones in the Auburn Pioneer Cemetery.
Double Wisteria Crest
Auburn Pioneer Cemetery Other historical names for the Auburn Pioneer Cemetery: The Faucett Cemetery, Old Cemetery, Cemetery at Slaughter, Japanese Cemetery, Christopher Cemetery
Auburn, Washington Other names by which Auburn and the Auburn area have been known: White River, Slaughter, New Auburn, Auburn City, Christopher, Thomas, Aaron, Stuck
Similar, but not interchangeable, words that are used frequently in this website:
Interred Buried.
Interned Sent to internment camp. Incarcerated.
Inurned Burial of cremated remains.

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All photographs published on this website, except where indicated, © Amerie & Kristy Lommen 2008 – 2023.
Please contact the site author(s) for permission to reproduce any material here published: kristy@lommen.org.