Itai Hoteru Are Open 24/7

By | 3 February 2024

–thanks to 2July17 New York Times

No Bronx roach motel cliché
–rather this is a Tokyo reality:
half the minimalist hotel rooms
are furnished with traditional twin
beds, flat-screen TVs, plastic-wrapped
cups, toothbrushes — and across the hall
the other half, fitted with plain small altars
and narrow platforms designed to hold coffins,
is where all the corpses rest. Checkout time for both
living and dead is without exception no later than 3 p.m.
Premium suites may have climate-controlled sarcophaguses
with transparent lids so mourners can peer inside. Part mortuary,
part inn, these establishments serve a growing market of Japanese
seeking an alternative to a big old-style funeral in an island country
where the population is aging rapidly, community bonds are fraying,
crematories are not able to keep up with the sheer amount of business.
By custom, families take the bodies of loved ones home from the hospital,
sit an overnight wake followed by a service the next morning in the company
of neighbors and colleagues and friends. Then, in the afternoon, the body is sent
for burning. The ashes are kept at home before burial for 49 days, when according
to the Buddhist bardo, the passed are believed to arrive at the next world. But as strong
communal ties weaken, lower cost practical ceremonies are more and more the province
of nuclear clans. Demand for corpse hotels’ll increase till the supply of baby boomers disappears.

An Itai Hoteru - or corpse motel - in Japan.

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