For once it would be nice to be invited to a wedding where participating in the happiness of the couple would be far more healthy than going to funerals all the time. Over the course of the last several years have attended to-date seven funerals. My Japanese relatives are dying off, some from old age and some from cancer, the latest at 61 years old. Watched her slowly die over a two year period. When she succumbed to cancer, we waited three days before her body could be cremated (incinerated). We are anticipating our eighth funeral soon. Her husband was diagnosed with lung cancer. There are so many Japanese people dying that the limited number crematoriums in Tokyo cannot keep up with the demand. What are the options? Check into a corpse hotel.
“Corpse Hotels” Are in Demand in Japan
Crematoria are too busy, so a new type of business stepped in to make the wait more comfortable
By Erin Blakemore • smithsonian.com • July 5, 2017
What do you do when a loved one dies? The answer depends on the circumstances of the death, religious customs of your community and the desires of the deceased, but it usually boils down to a mortuary, a funeral home and a cremation or funeral. In Japan, however, there’s another option for the dearly departed, reports Motoko Rich for The New York Times: Take them to a corpse hotel.
Japan’s corpse hotels still involve cremation, but they put a twist on the age-old tradition. And, reports Rich, they serve another purpose: They provide storage for bodies that must wait days for a place in one of Japan’s busy crematoria. Corpse hotels are also places that families can gather to hold vigils and affordable funerals. And when they’re not spending time with their loved one’s body, families have a nearby place to rest.
With an aging population and a rising death rate, cremation overload is a real problem in the country. As Al Jazeera’s Drew Ambrose wrote in 2015, Japan has the world’s highest cremation rates at 99 percent. That means waits of up to four days for the remains to be cremated. And with too few crematoria in high-population centers like Tokyo, things are only expected to get worse.
As Japan Times’ Mizuho Aoki notes, these corpse hotels, known as itai hoteru in Japan, were invented as an alternative to sparse morgues where bodies were kept in impersonal cold storage. Despite their friendlier faces, the hotels are often met with protest from residents who don’t want to live so close to the establishments.
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