LED-lit mausoleum offers Tokyo a high-tech alternative to regular graves

by Satoshi Toi

Kyodo

At the Ruriden mausoleum in Tokyo, families can visit their deceased loved ones in a dreamlike atmosphere created by light-emitting diodes and advanced technologies.

On the walls of the facility, managed by Kokoku Temple, are a total of 2,046 small Buddhist statues made of glass called “ruriki” that emit a different color of light at a different level of brightness and tone depending on the occasion and season via computer-automated control.

The ruriki will glow gold for an ordinary visit or blue for a memorial service.

When visitors type the name of their loved one into a computer, a glowing ruriki on the front of the appropriate vault guides them to the location of the remains.

Visitors are able to enter the facility in Shinjuku Ward in off-hours with an IC security card.

“We believe Buddhist ceremonies should change with the times and environment,” said Taijun Yajima, chief priest at the temple.

“A Buddhist ceremony and a new technology may seem an unlikely combination, but it can make our lives more comfortable and convenient if we incorporate technologies, as long as we can maintain a balance,” he said.

An official at a company brokering the service said Ruriden is mainly used by people in the neighborhood who want to come and see departed family members frequently but can’t afford expensive graves in central Tokyo.

“Among users are also people from outside Tokyo who transfer the bones of their families from the graves in the countryside where they are originally from,” the official said.

People can also reserve a vault while they are still alive. The price for a standard type is set at ¥750,000. If one is reserved, plus an annual management fee of ¥9,000 is charged until it is used.

The temple accepts reservations from anyone regardless of religion, sect or nationality.