Here’s how Japan solved the lack of burial space problem

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Burial Trees -- The Hot Mess Press

With the rapid growth of the global population, countries worldwide battle with the problem of space to bury their dead. Many cities in the U.S. and across the world are running out of burial space. Some countries have had to transform their funerary rituals. They adapted to different ways of cemetery operations. Some cities destroy historic cemeteries to reclaim that land.

Singapore’s solution for burial space

The Singapore government introduced Columbariums after using force to demolish family tombs. People place the urns holding the ashes of cremated loved ones in the Columbariums. Families who prefer traditional burials have the graves for only 15 years. After that, they dig the remains up for cremation to make space for other burials.

Hong Kong burial sites are expensive

The Hong Kong government uses celebrities and pop stars in marketing campaigns to convince people to choose cremation over the traditional grave burials. Reportedly, burial site prices in Hong Kong are the highest per square foot compared to any other real estate.

Japan changed traditional burial rituals

Burial in forest

Japanese officials recognized the clash between religious rituals and environmental needs as far back as the 1970s. After experimenting with several innovative solutions, some temples settled on tree burials around 1999. Instead of the vast traditional cemeteries with massive tombstones and stone markers, they made peace with environmentalists in an unorthodox way.

When their loved ones die, people have them cremated and then bury the ashes during a tree burial ceremony. In the new ritual, they plant a tree over the buried ashes to mark the gravesite. Instead of a large cemetery, they do this in small parks that already have some trees. Although Buddhism is the religion of the majority in Japan, many others also adopted the tree burial ceremonies.

The people of Japan were not ready to scatter the ashes of their loved ones and have no way to visit them afterward. Now, there is a particular tree where people can perform their religious rituals the same way they did at gravesites for centuries.

Variations of the tree burials in Japan include temples choosing a single large tree under which they allocate individual spaces to bury ashes. Similarly, others have established Columbariums around single trees where people can place the ashes of their loved ones. Tree burials are growing in popularity in Japan.

How will American cities deal with the lack of cemetery space?

Burial Japanese Graveyard

An increasing number of U.S. people and other countries with similar religious institutions are doubtful of the traditional funeral encumbrances and rituals. They are starting to question the embalmed bodies put on display. Furthermore, people spend thousands of dollars on caskets and tombstones to reflect the deceased’s social status.

In a nutshell

Adapting burial rituals does not mean a move away from religion. Instead, it underscores the versatility of traditional spiritual practices and religious rituals to include social and environmental factors without losing the fundamental anchors of religions.

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