Japan is one of the most densely populated countries on earth. Not surprisingly, that creates?
Japan is one of the most densely populated countries on earth. Not surprisingly, that creates an accommodation problem ... for the dead as well as the living.
830,000 people die each year in Japan, and in many cases there is nowhere to bury them. In Tokyo, for instance, no new cemetery has been built for years. Land costs are prohibitive. Available space is rapidly being converted into high-rise accommodation for the living. These new buildings are crowding the old cemeteries out of sight, and grave space has become a rare and valuable commodity.
In many cases, families keep the ashes of dead relatives tucked away in urns on shelves, for years...waiting for the day when they will be permitted to bury them.
The Japanese have devised a system of allotting the vanishing grave sites. Ironically, it is the same system they use for assigning public housing -- a lottery.
Hundreds of families gather for the lotteries to see which family will have their lucky number drawn ... enabling them to bury their dead at last.
The lucky winners are still faced with an expensive fee for the grave and headstone, sometimes as much as one thousand U.S. Dollars ($500 sterling). To reduce the impact of the high cost, often several families join to use the same grave site for their urns, spreading the cost among them.
But many Japanese dislike the vagaries of the lottery. For them, there is an alternative...high-rise cemeteries to match the high-rise living. These unusual graveyards have sprung up around the city -- elegant modern buildings with corridors lined by lockers containing the ashes of the dead. Families come to pay their respects and place flowers on the lockers. Costs in the public highrise cemeteries may be as little as 100 U.S. Dollars every five years.
But not all the high rise cemeteries are so inexpensive. For those with more money to spend, luxurious funereal accommodation has been developed, complete with carpets, air conditioning, chapels and fully-lined lockers. Costs for placing ashes in these facilities can run upwards from 2,000 dollars (950 pounds sterling)...plus a small yearly maintenance charge.