Japan Now Has a Drive-Through Funeral Service

Cherryl Anne Cruz

Talk about fast service. The Aishoden Funeral Parlor has an extraordinary way of offering busy and less-mobile mourners a chance to pay their last respects to a departed person, and that is via a drive-through funeral service.

Located in the central part of Ueda, Japan, it works just like a fast food delivery service–but the difference is that visitors can pull up to a drive-through window to register on a touchscreen tablet, offer money, and even give traditional incense offerings all in the comfort of their own car.

Meanwhile, all the visitors’ faces, together with their offerings, are conveniently seen on monitors inside the funeral homes.

Mourner paying respect to the dead

Drive-through funeral service: Only in Japan

This drive-through funeral service is the first of its kind in Japan, according to Masao Ogiwara, company president of The Kankon Sosai Aichi Group that’s behind this unusual undertaking.  Their business specifically targets busy people and those with limited mobility, such as wheel-chaired bound individuals.

“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.”

Ogiwara also added that final farewells in the service are simplified to shave off unnecessary ceremony running times. This helps busy individuals save time.

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

Japan’s aging population quickly on the rise

Elder playing with a cat

One of the most common reasons why more unconventional (and even traditional) funeral services have been steadily increasing over the years is due to Japan’s increasing life expectancy age.

Today, around 80 percent of those who are extending their golden years are men, and 87 percent are women.

According to Japan’s Health, Labor, and Welfare Ministry, around 33.0% of the Japanese population is above the age of 60. Their studies also show that 25.9 percent are aged 65 or above, and 12.5 percent are aged 75 or above. People aged 65 years and older in Japan make up a quarter of its total population, estimated to reach a third by the year 2050.

Meanwhile, the country’s birth rate is slowing down, with fewer than one million births last year.

The World Factbook listed Japan’s life expectancy in 2016 to be at 85 years of age, which is similar to that of Singapore, and lower only than that of Monaco.

Compare this with the average life expectancy rate in the U.S., which is 78.7 years, China at 75.9 years, or even the world, which is 71.5 years.

Moreover, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communication’s statistical yearbook in 2016 reported that senior citizens in the 90 years old age bracket have, for the first time, reached the 2.06 million mark, with 7.7 million seniors working in the country.

According to the Ministry’s data, around 3.01 million, or 39 percent of the working elders, were non-regular employees (such as part-timers or temps). Statistics show that this was a 2.5 fold increase from the 1.22 million elders who worked in 2006.

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