The second-floor unit in Kodaira, western Tokyo, at first glance may look like an overly large apartment, with its sofas, large TV, video player, kitchen, bathroom and tatami room, but it is actually a small-scale funeral hall.
The hall was opened last year by Memorial Art Ohnoya Inc., a Tokyo-based funeral company, to meet the growing demand for small funerals in modest surroundings where families can send off the dearly departed without ringing up a huge tab.
“We aim to help families say goodbye to their loved ones in a relaxed atmosphere, just as if they were at home,” said Aki Mitsuyasu, an spokesman at the western Tokyo branch.
The Kodaira hall has taken more than 30 reservations from people prearranging their own funerals.
Etsuko Edogawa, 56, used the hall in May for the funeral of her husband, who died at age 62, who she said wanted a nonreligious ceremony. She and other family members were there over three days, from the wake through the memorial service.
“He was a person who always needed company,” she said. “It was good that we could be with him for the whole time.”
In June, a 51-year-old Kodaira woman had a funeral for her mother, who died at 79, with just her family and close relatives in attendance.
“Someone my mother’s age only had a small number of acquaintances,” the woman said.
The Toda Funeral Parlor in Tokyo’s Itabashi Ward has a space of about 20 sq. meters for small funerals. It is used 40 to 50 times a month.
“The number of people who just want a cremation or a small funeral gathering is increasing, but until now only medium-size or large halls have been available,” said Toda’s Atsushi Hasegawa.
Two years ago, the funeral home expanded into the building next door, creating more available space.
Midori Kotani, a chief researcher at Dai-ichi Life Research Institute Inc. and an expert on the funeral industry, said cremations without ceremonies are on the rise, accounting for nearly 30 percent of all funerals in and around Tokyo.
She said families, having already spent a great deal of money to take care of elderly members while they are alive, don’t want to pay a lot of money for a big traditional Japanese funeral, which typically runs into millions of yen.
“You can say goodbye without a ceremony,” Kotani said. “We may be witnessing a return to services in their original form, when the bereaved simply assembled to pay their respects, without giving a thought to what kind of ceremony they should be holding.”
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