More than half of municipalities in Japan have neglected graves, survey shows

A Japanese government survey shows that more than half of municipalities are dealing with neglected graves in their public cemeteries and mausoleums as many are being abandoned by families and friends.

The internal affairs ministry's Administrative Evaluation Bureau surveyed municipalities that have been confirmed to have public graveyards in their jurisdiction.

Of the 765 municipalities surveyed, 58.2 percent of them said there are neglected graves at their public graveyards and mausoleums.

The municipalities said dilapidated tombstones and block walls pose a risk of collapsing and thickly grown trees could cause environmental deterioration.

Municipalities would need to remove cremated remains interred in the grave and the tombstones to group burial sites or other places if they cannot find people who are responsible.

But only 6.1 percent of the municipalities have resorted to such measures in the five years through fiscal 2020.

As there are no legal provisions on how tombstones should be treated after being removed, many municipalities have taken various measures such as keeping them in permanent storage.

Experts say the country's aging population and people moving to urban areas are making it hard for families and friends to keep up with grave maintenance.

The ministry says the falling birthrate and graying population coupled with an increase in nuclear families could further worsen the situation.
The ministry has asked the welfare ministry to share its expertise with municipalities to deal with neglected graves.