This paper examines the interview narratives of bereaved individuals in Japan, drawing attention to the diversity of ways they attempted to achieve a good death for their loved ones. Such diversity, which has been perceived to reflect the multicultural and individualistic nature of post-modern Western, Anglophone societies, is also apparent in the Japanese context, a society that is post-modern, yet non-Western, with a strong sense of traditional and cultural hegemony. Such a culture, in which traditional forms continue to shape contemporary deathways, brings into sharp focus the way more generalised cultural norms find expression in the particularities and contingencies of daily living. In a system of medicalised dying, participants reinterpreted traditional deathways to incorporate more individualistic conceptions of personhood and negotiated contemporary approaches to accommodate traditional values. In emphasising the nature of the dying space, the demeanour of the dying person and their own role in the dying process, they negotiated competing demands of institutional dying, family loyalty, religious and spiritual values and personal autonomy. The variety of positions they adopted in relation to available cultural messages demonstrated the role of individuals in perpetuating, adapting, redefining or rejecting these to accommodate personal circumstances and priorities.