A rapidly changing society and high costs have caused many Japanese families to forgo traditional funerals. Corpse hotels have arisen to meet their needs.
In American popular culture, Japan is normally portrayed as a very rigid and tradition-bound country. In some ways that is an accurate depiction, but things change in Japan just like in other countries.
Japanese funeral services have traditionally been elaborate, expensive affairs.
First, the body of the deceased is taken home and everyone in the neighborhood is invited to view it. The next day, the body is cremated and the ashes are taken home for another 49 days, after which they are buried in a local cemetery.
However, those services are extremely expensive and the country has a shortage of crematories.
This has many Japanese families turning to corpse hotels, as The New York Times reports in “Crematory Is Booked? Japan Offers Corpse Hotels.”
In some ways, these corpse hotels are just like any other hotel. People can stay overnight in a traditional hotel room that has the usual amenities.
Across the hall from the living guests are rooms that house the bodies of their deceased family members, while they await an open crematory. Japanese people are less likely to know their neighbors than they once did. Consequently, they do not see the need to hold an elaborate funeral for the entire neighborhood.
There is also a cost saving. Corpse hotels can cost a tenth of what holding a traditional funeral would.
The U.S. does not have corpse hotels. However, funerals are changing here and many elderly people are deciding to be buried in non-traditional ways.
Reference: New York Times (July 1, 2017) “Crematory Is Booked? Japan Offers Corpse Hotels.”