QR codes and cranes: Japan embraces modern cemeteries


Mr. Tomohiro Hirose, the temple’s resident monk who oversees the establishment of Kuramae-ryoen, has a traditional cemetery of some 300 graves.

“But about half of the graves don’t have anyone left in the family to take care of them,” he told AFP.

To address the problem, a series of modern indoor cemeteries have sprung up, offering to store the remains for a fixed period, often up to three decades.

The ashes are eventually transferred to collective memorials, but individual names or QR codes are engraved on plaques to provide some personalization, and the monks pledge to continue offering prayers for the souls of the deceased.

Facing a busy boulevard in the Japanese capital, Kuramae-ryoen offers industrial, warehouse-style stacking shelves that can store 7,000 zushi boxes, each of which can hold two urns or the bagged ashes of up to eight people.

Mr Hirose decided to build the site after the old temple building was badly damaged in the 2011 earthquake.

He felt the new building, which includes a temple, its living quarters and the cemetery, would revitalize a site that dates back to 1608.

“It provides a new style. Many families find it easy to visit their graves,” Mr Hirose said.

The cemetery uses machines developed by Daifuku, a company that produces storage, transport and collection systems for factories and warehouses.

“Our company has built systems for about 60 facilities (cemeteries) across the country,” said Hidenobu Shinnaka, a senior Daifuku official.

The first order came in the 1990s, and more recently other Asian markets have also shown interest, he said.