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Japan’s Burial Traditions Get Creative

Stone pillars give way to smartphone apps, spaceships and virtual mausoleums


With time and space at a premium in modern society, people around the globe are seeking alternatives to traditional burials. The desire for alternatives is especially acute in Japan, according to a recent article in Ignition, a digital publication.

“Until recently, the typical Japanese person was born and raised in his ancestral homeland, helped maintain his ancestral household and died more or less where he was born,” writes Masahiko Ono. But now, some Japanese people are letting go of centuries of Buddhist tradition. Instead of placing their loved ones’ remains under a stone pillar to be worshipped for generations to come, they’re coming up with creative ways to honor their ancestors.

These are a few that Ono mentions in his article:

Computer-Operated Mausoleums  Why visit your ancestors when you can essentially Skype them? Step into a booth, make your selections and your loved one’s remains will appear on a screen. Send flowers with the push of a button.

Balloon Space Funeral  Place your loved one’s remains into a helium balloon and release it into the sky.

Eternity Memorial  You don’t have to make a pilgrimage if you outsource your prayers. Mail your loved one’s remains to the temple of your choice and the staff will conduct graveside prayers on your behalf.

Tree Burial  When you bury your loved ones’ remains at the base of a new tree, you’re creating an eco-minded shrine to your ancestors.

Shooting Star Funeral  Place your loved one’s remains in an aluminum-alloy capsule connected to a low-orbit satellite. Then track his or her orbit with an app on your smartphone.

Reduced-size Urns  Keep your loved one literally close to your heart by placing some of the person’s ashes in a pendant worn around your neck.

To read more about Japanese burial trends, click here.

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