Attitudes Towards Traditional Burials Changing in Japan and Korea

Asian countries have a reputation in America for being extremely traditional when it comes to honoring family members that have passed before them. Yet even in Asian countries attitudes toward traditional internment burials are starting to shift towards cremation and burials at sea largely due to a number of factors: concern over more natural alternatives, cost, and the worry that graves may go unattended and become reclaimed.

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“Japan’s ageing society should be a boon for Chinese craftsmen, such as An, who dominate the tombstone trade. The number of deaths each year is expected to increase by 30 percent over the next quarter century.

But more Japanese are choosing to have their ashes scattered at sea or planted under a tree, as these options are cheaper than a gravestone, which is usually the last big splurge for many people at a time of intense caution over the economy.”

“But for older people, another, larger concern is that with few or no descendants to visit their graves, they might end up being abandoned. Many Japanese see such visits as a key gesture of respect. Abandoned graves risk being reclaimed and destroyed.”

“As a growing number of people move to cities and are busy working hard, however, it becomes quite hard for them to take care of their family member’s grave because of a long distance to the site and ridiculously congested holiday traffic. Under the circumstances, more and more graves go by the wayside. Of 14 million graves in Korea, 2.24 million, or one in six, are not taken care of.”


“Grave times for Japan tombstone trade” by Yiyuan Wang. Posted on September 14, 2014.

“Korean People Who Prefer Cremation to Traditional Burial Increasing” by Veronica Huh. Posted on September 13, 2014

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