In Tokyo, a city of 14 million people, space comes at a premium and being buried in the ground is a luxury only few can afford.
Rituals embody the thinking of a society. Death rites in particular reveal notions of life, death and the afterlife. Looking at the new ways in which people in Japan are buried is an indication of the transformations in city landscapes, lifestyle and social structure. With astronomic land prices in Tokyo, being buried in an urban cemetery can cost well over $ 100,000. In a country where the graves of ancestors are visited regularly, access is key. New multi-story, vault-like graveyards offer a modern solution to an age old ritual. Accessible around the clock, in all weather conditions, with wheel chair access and no individual maintenance required, ‘cemeteries’ like Tokyo’s Ruriden allow family members to use a swipe card to enter the cemetery room. Japan’s technological lead in this field, as in many others, is showing a possible way forward for other cities across the world.