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Last month, a man was arrested by the Tokyo Metropolitan Police for leaving human remains at a garbage collection station near his residence in Adachi Ward. The remains had been cremated and were mixed in with shards of funerary urns, and according to a report on NHK News, the man admitted to dumping the urns but claimed he knew nothing of the ashes and bone fragments.

As it turns out, the man is a reburial contractor. He runs a service to help temples and public cemeteries move remains out of graves that have been abandoned or which families say they no longer plan to maintain. Reburial contractors charge for removing the remains and “closing” the grave (haka-jimai) and then they either transfer the remains to a new grave or dispose of them in a legal manner. Dumping them in a residential refuse station, however, is not one of these legal options.

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