Japan Offers Hi-Tech ‘Vault Graves’

Only the finest for the dead rich people

In one of the world’s fastest aging societies, Japanese seniors are worrying about a life-and-death issue: finding an “after-life” home in an island short of land. For some, going high-tech is the solution. In accordance with Buddhist tradition, most of the dead in Japan are cremated, and the urns carrying their ashes buried in traditional cemeteries with a gravestone marker.

But with a plot of land for a grave in Tokyo costing 2 to 3 million yen ($18,000-$27,000) at least, a high-tech, multi-storey vault — costing a third of that — is becoming the resting place of choice for many.

For 79-year-old Shinya Shimada, paying his respects around the time of Japan’s annual Bon festival, when the spirits of ancestors are believed to return home, means a visit to a modern vault rather than a traditional graveyard.

“Initially, I was a bit uncomfortable with a high-tech grave. But now, I have come to see it positively,” Shimada said.

At the nondescript three-storey building alongside a Buddhist temple, Shimada uses an identity card to dial-up the gravestones and urns carrying his ancestors’ ashes.

A library-stack-like machine behind altars transports them, complete with accompanying music and pictures of the deceased on a TV monitor.

“Looking at their pictures, I actually talk a lot more to my deceased parents and sister,” Shimada said. “Unlike the usual gravestone, this makes me feel nostalgic.”

The monk whose temple owns the high-tech vault, Houkou Shimizu, said it took him sometime to warm to the idea.

But limited land space prompted him to install the state-of-the-art machine.

Via The Times