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カテゴリーのアイコン Life in Japan
Virtual Cemeteries in Japan
Mar 04, 2024
4 min read
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Hey there Guidable readers! I’m sure there are people all over the world coming to this website, but I have a simple question. When your loved ones pass away, how does your country usually handle the situation? Do you have some kind of commemoration? Do you bury them or do a cremation?

As you already know, Japan isn’t exactly a big country so cemeteries may not be as common in Japan as in your home country. That’s where one IT company comes in - they want to solve this problem by offering a virtual cemetery, among other possible solutions!

Digital Graveyard

In July of 2023, an IT company based out of Kawasaki officially launched its services: a virtual cemetery. Just scan the QR code and you will get a commemoration of your loved ones, including their name, photos, and a short biography.

For some people, finding the right location, tombstone, etc. may be difficult. But as part of their services, the company will package it up as a bundle for your convenience.

“We wanted to do something new since it seems (Japanese) people are losing interest in tombstones”

“If we can do all of this in the digital space, we can preserve the memories of our family and loved ones practically forever.” -IT Company Representative

Zenpoukouenfun (前方後円墳)

If a virtual cemetery is not your cup of tea, then there is another unique alternative in Shingumachi, Fukuoka. As opposed to the digital space, this alternative is a little bit more traditional. In Japanese, they call it zenpoukouenfun. It is a type of koufun, or tumulus.

Tumulus’ are also known as burial mounds and have been around since ancient times. However, in Japan, these koufun are shaped a little differently. If you look at it from a bird’s eye view, it resembles that of a keyhole.

What makes this koufun so unique is a few things:

  1. It’s huge size
  2. It holds cremated remains
  3. As part of the service, it will hold a memorial service for an indefinite amount of time

Let’s go over that for a second. First of all, this zenpoukouenfun is so big that upon its announcement, of the 1200 people that showed interest in signing up, over 1000 people have already completed the contract. That’s over 80%!

Different countries may have different ways of doing things, for example, in ancient Egypt, they would bury the dead bodies in these tumuli. For this service, however, it is cremated remains.

Finally, as part of the service package, this place is offering a memorial service known as eitaikuyou (永代供養). In short, this is a memorial type of service that you may have seen in your favorite Japanese anime or drama, but here it is being offered, well…forever! This will effectively decrease the financial burden on one’s kids, grandkids, and so on.

Buddhist Altar

One more alternative that may be unique to people who are accustomed to cemeteries out in the West is a Buddhist altar. In Japanese, this is called _butsudan _(仏壇), and is something else you may have seen in an anime/drama.

According to one big butsudan company, as tombstones and burials are on the decline, families are gravitating towards butsudan to pray for their loved ones. To keep up with the times and people's needs, this company is making small, contemporary-style butsudan that people can conveniently place in their homes without taking up much space.

Virtual Cemeteries and Remembering Loved Ones

What did you think? Are any of these alternatives unique to your home country? For me, I certainly haven’t thought this far into my future, so these ideas are new to me. As a digital native, a virtual cemetery seems attractive. However, I’m sure many people would want something more traditional, whether for their loved ones or for themselves.

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