A shortage of crematoriums in Japan has produced wait times for ‘funeral refugees’ before cremation.
In a residential street in Japan’s Kawasaki city the corpse hotel or camouflaged morgue, called Sousou, is used to hold bodies waiting for a spot in one of the nation’s overworked crematoriums.
Sousou doesn’t refrigerate corpses, relying on air conditioned rooms.
“Crematories need to be built, but there isn’t any space to do so and that is creating funeral refugees,” said Hisao Takegishi, who opened his business in 2014.
For NZ$121.93 per day, family members can keep their deceased in one of Sousou’s 10 rooms for up to four days until a crematorium can be found.
Sousou’s customers said they are grateful for a place to keep their deceased relatives.
“I think it’s great that families and acquaintances can come and visit before she heads off to the crematorium,” said Hirokazu Hosaka, 69, as her mother’s body lay in a decorated coffin in Sousou.
Japan’s demographic change means people are dying off at a faster pace. About 20,000 more people per year are expiring, with the death rate expected to peak at about 1.7 million a year, according to government estimates.
Similar hotels have appeared across Japan, like Lastel in Yokohama, which popped up in 2011 amid a growing market of death related services.
Meanwhile, residents near corpse hotels find it all a bit creepy.
Placards and flags dot the neighbourhood, noting local outrage over the morgue. Yoko Masuzawa, 50, who lives behind Sousou, demanded it put air ventilation grilles above ground level, a request that she said it ignored.
Takegishi, who used to help organise weddings, is looking to tap demand, with plans to bring corpse hotels to other cities.