Brazilian delegation studies Japan’s cremation technology

by Hiroko Nakata

In a country where most people are Roman Catholic, Brazilians have traditionally buried their loved ones in the ground under the doctrine of resurrection of the body.

But since the Vatican ended a ban on cremation in 1963, more people are choosing cremation, and Sao Paulo, Brazil’s largest city, is looking into Japan’s high-quality cremation technology to help the trend become more widespread.

“Interest in cremation has been rising in Brazil in recent years,” said Celso Jorge Caldeira, president of Sao Paulo Funeral Services, a public-private company that handles all funeral services in the city. “But the supply is not catching up with the demand.”

Practical reasons are also behind the increase in cremations in Sao Paulo.

All sects of Christianity now accept cremation due to the smaller impact on the environment, and space for burial plots in densely packed cities, including Sao Paulo, is limited, Caldeira said.

A mission headed by Caldeira is in Japan through Saturday to learn about the funeral process here, he told The Japan Times. In Japan, 99.8 percent of the deceased are cremated.

“The number of bodies that are cremated increases by 20 percent every year” in Brazil, he said.

Based on the demand, Sao Paulo plans to expand the existing crematory in the eastern part of the city and build a new one in the south.

Japanese-Brazilians, who number about 1 million in Sao Paulo, also welcome cremation, Caldeira said, adding that Jews are about the only group in the country that disapproves of cremation.

Caldeira said he is impressed with the efficiency of Japan’s cremations and the high quality of exhaust filtration.

For example, it takes 50 minutes to cremate a body at a crematory in Kawasaki that his mission inspected Monday. The technology is more efficient than that used in the United States, which is the same as is currently in use in Sao Paulo.

Caldeira added that not only technology here but the psychological state of workers in the funeral industry has touched him.

“Anywhere we visited, we were impressed by their hospitality, intelligence and diligence,” he said.

Cremation as a trend is growing worldwide, he said.

In the United States, 50 percent of the deceased on the East Coast and 68 percent on the West Coast are cremated. In the United Kingdom, the figure reaches 70 percent, said Caldeira, who is also a member of the National Funeral Directors Association USA.

“Compared with them, Brazil and other Latin American countries are slow (in introducing cremation),” he said.

Historically, cremation in Latin America has been the victim of prejudice, which is due to lack of sufficient knowledge, he said.

“But by solving the problem, the prejudice is going away and people are starting to accept cremation. Things are changing,” Caldeira said.