Japan's 'demographic time bomb' has led to the rise of drive-thru funerals

  • A Japanese funeral parlor has begun offering drive-thru funerals to accommodate people with disabilities.
  • The move reflects Japan’s rapidly ageing population.
  • This widespread ageing, combined with Japan’s low fertility rate, have created what economists call a “demographic time bomb.”

Over the last decade, Japan has become what economists refer to as a “demographic time bomb” – a vicious cycle of low spending and low fertility that has resulted in a population decline of 1 million people and trillions in lost GDP.

Signs of the time bomb are everywhere, including prisons turning into de facto nursing homes and friends marrying one another out of desperation.

Now there’s a new sign: Japan has opened its first-ever drive-thru funeral parlor, meant to cater to the growing elderly population that is no longer mobile enough to pay their respects in-person.

The idea was hatched by Kankon Sosai Aichi Group at the Aishoden funeral parlor, which is located in the city of Ueda. Company President Masao Ogiwara said the move should help add some convenience to people’s daily lives.

“I’ve been in this business for a while and have seen how burdensome attending funerals can be for old folks in wheelchairs,” Ogiwara told theJapan Times. “The new service will allow those who would otherwise stay home go out and bid farewell to friends and family.”

When drivers pull up to the window, they can sign their name in a digital logbook, offer condolence money, and make a customary incense offering, the Japan Times reported. The entire visit takes no more than a minute or two, and those mourning inside can watch on video monitors as people pull up and drive away.

Japan isn’t the first country to offer drive-thru funerals.

In 2014, a Michigan funeral home tested out the idea, also for mourners with disabilities. When drivers pulled up at the window, sensors underneath the pavement would sense the weight of the car and a set of curtains would open, revealing an open casket. Drivers had three minutes of observance as music played,Fox News reported.

In Japan, both the elderly population and the total life expectancy only continue to grow, which means the need for on-the-go funeral services is unlikely to fade anytime soon.

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