Even before a ¥1.66 billion state funeral for the slain former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe prompted a public outcry, the Japanese have long grumbled about funeral costs, the highest in the world. Now, an increasing number of grieving families are opting for low-key send-offs, with the pandemic providing an extra reason to avoid large ceremonies.

Average spending per funeral in the past year was ¥1.1 million, down 40% from an earlier, pre-COVID survey, according to Kamakura Shinsho, an online information service specializing in elderly care, funerals and graves. That’s still around a quarter of the average annual salary and doesn’t cover extra costs such as offerings to Buddhist monks. Including additional expenses, Japanese funerals cost around ¥3 million before the pandemic, around three to four times what’s spent in the U.S. and Europe, according a 2020 survey by U.K.-based insurance provider SunLife.

Hiroya Shimizu, who organized his father’s funeral in early 2019, remembers being shown different hearses and floral arrangements but felt he ultimately had little control over costs.