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Crematory Is Booked? Japan Offers Corpse Hotels

The corpse hotels offer a practical solution — a place where a body can be stored at low cost until the crematory is ready, and where small, inexpensive wakes and services can be held outside the home.

“We can say the supply doesn’t meet the demand,” mainly in urban areas, said Hiroshi Ota, an official at the Japan Society of Environmental Crematories. While Japan has an estimated 5,100 crematories, Tokyo, with a population of more than 13 million, has just 26.

“The demand for cremation will increase until the baby boomers disappear,” Mr. Ota said.

Japan has funeral parlors, too, an industry that developed as people moved from the countryside to the cities and it became difficult — and often impossible — to take corpses into high-rises. But they cater to larger groups and more elaborate ceremonies, and these days, that can seem a bit much.

In the bubble economy of the 1980s, “Japanese funerals were based on showing off to other people, and people cared how they were viewed by others,” said Midori Kotani, executive researcher at Dai-ichi Life Research Institute, an arm of one of Japan’s largest insurance companies. “But fewer and fewer people talk to their neighbors, so they don’t have to show off or think about how they are viewed by them.”

The corpse hotels are used by families who want a simpler affair, or want to skip a funeral altogether. According to Ms. Kotani, about 30 percent of deaths in the Tokyo area are not marked by a funeral service, up from just 10 percent a decade ago.

After cremation, families usually keep the ashes at home for 49 days before a burial service at a cemetery. On the 49th day, according to Buddhist tradition, the dead are believed to arrive at the next world.

Source: NYT > World

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