• Kyodo

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The Kawasaki Municipal Government plans to draw up an ordinance allowing a time limit on graves in cemeteries to cope with a possible rise in the number of abandoned tombs.

The city aims to put the ordinance into effect next year, officials said, adding that the move is also expected to solve a shortage of graves stemming from the rapid graying of Japan’s population.

The ordinance will mark the first attempt by a local government to limit the time period for grave use, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare said.

After spending the designated time interred at a cemetery, a person’s ashes would be brought to a joint memorial service tower or a building to house the ashes of the dead, the city officials said, citing the planned ordinance.

The ordinance would oblige public entities, including religious corporations that own cemeteries in the city, to allow citizens to choose whether to purchase tombs for permanent use — as they have done until now — or rent them for a specified period.

The bill will be submitted to the municipal assembly in September or soon thereafter.

With the ordinance, the city will instruct religious corporations to encourage people who already own tombs to switch over to the new rental contracts.

Grave space has been a problematic issue in urban areas, and although tombs which no longer have anyone to take care for them may be cleared away pending announcement in public gazettes, such action is not often taken due to the high costs of doing so.

Last November, the then Health and Welfare Ministry showed prefectural governments and the governments of major cities a guideline on running cemeteries to promote effective use of space.

As of March 1998, Japan had 878,733 cemeteries, the health ministry said. There were about 160 in Kawasaki.

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