NAGOYA – A funeral goods wholesaler is planning a new service that combines a traditional Buddhist practice with state-of-the-art DNA technology: preserving DNA samples from the dead in Buddhist mortuary tablets.
Nagoya-based Sekise Inc. said it will start offering the new service in July for less than 20,000 yen through some 500 funeral-service operators it has business ties with. The service may also be ordered in advance.
The DNA Memorial Banking service, the product of a tieup with U.S. DNA identification firm Identigene Inc., uses Identigene’s newly developed technology for making low-cost permanent DNA samples.
The service will provide a capsule containing three DNA samples extracted from the mouth of the deceased and place it within a special mortuary tablet. The tablets are at least 15 cm tall, 5.5 cm wide and 1.5 cm thick, a Sekise official said.
Mortuary tablets, usually placed on family Buddhist altars, are traditionally considered a medium to aid the appearance of spirits of the deceased and ancestors that watch the living during memorial rites.
The Houston-based firm’s Japan unit expects the service to have a major impact in Japan, which in the past cremated all people at death, making the extraction of genetic information impossible, the official said.
Sekise said it aims to earn 300 million yen annually from the service.