Options to traditional family graves grow in Japan

New ways to memorialize the deceased are being offered in Japan, aimed at people having difficulty maintaining a traditional family grave plot.

An IT firm near Tokyo, Smart Senior, launched a digital service in August. It offers permanent storage of photographs and videos of those who have passed away as a memorial.

Family and friends can view them, along with anecdotes depicting their personality, by scanning a dedicated QR code.

The company plans to have the QR codes displayed at temples and cemeteries housing the remains of the deceased.

Last year, a cemetery in Fukuoka Prefecture, western Japan started offering to collectively manage deceased people's ashes in a single grave. It gives relatives an alternative to the responsibility of maintaining a family plot for generations.

More than 1,000 of the 1,200 available slots have already been taken. Cemetery officials say about 80 percent of the applicants are still alive as more people probably want to reduce the burden on their children and grandchildren.

Meanwhile a major family-altar maker has introduced a lineup of small, modern-looking models that are suitable for keeping at home.

It says demand is growing among families that want to pray for their ancestors without maintaining a grave.

An increasing number of people are disposing of their family tombstones and closing up their grave plots. They move the deceased's ashes to a more convenient place for maintenance.

The welfare ministry says there were almost 120,000 such cases nationwide in fiscal 2021, topping 100,000 for the fifth year in a row.