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Grief on the go in Japan

December 16, 2017

Japan's rapidly ageing population means funerals are a booming business. Thanks to a new drive-through memorial service, mourners can now pay their last respects from the comfort of their cars.

A mourner pays his respects from the car
Image: imago/Kyodo News

The Aishoden funeral parlor in the central Japanese city of Ueda will begin offering the novel service to time-pressed and less mobile mourners from Sunday, the Kyodo news agency reported.

Grieving relatives can pull up beside the facility's drive-through window, register their names on a touchscreen tablet, handover condolence money, and make a traditional incense offering — all without leaving their car.

Their visit is then screened on monitors inside the parlor for funeral-goers to watch.

A receptionist stands at a drive-through window
Instead of ordering a cheeseburger, visitors pulling up to this drive-through window can make a traditional incense offering Image: imago/Kyodo News

The Kankon Sosai Aichi Group, which is behind the initiative, says the drive-through service is the first of its kind in Japan.

According to company president Masao Ogiwara, the idea aims to give elderly or less-mobile relatives a chance to participate in the ceremony.

"I've been in this business for a while and have seen how burdensome attending funerals can be for old folks in wheelchairs," Ogiwara told the Japan Times. "The new service will allow those who would otherwise stay home to go out and bid farewell to friends and family."

He added that the new feature would streamline final farewells, shaving several minutes off ceremony running times.

"All in all, it will cut down the time it takes to attend a funeral by around one-fourth or one-fifth," Ogiwara said.

The Aishoden funeral home
Less mobile or time-pressed mourners can say their goodbyes from the carImage: imago/Kyodo News

Japan's population is ageing rapidly— the death rate far exceeds the birth rate, and more than a quarter of the country's 127 million inhabitants are aged 65 or over. With that proportion forecast to grow significantly in the coming decades, the funeral business looks set to keep thriving.

nm/jm (AP, AFP)