Corpse hotels offer new final destination

Corpse hotels offer new final destination

Japan's booming death rate brings by-the-night body storage
How long, we wonder, before some joker in Japan calls his corpse-stop "Hotel California"?

Take a walk down almost any suburban Tokyo shopping street and you’ll notice two kinds of stores in abundance -- hair salons and drugstores.

While the baffling amount of floor space devoted to the former has long been a fixture on the retail landscape, the spread of pharmacies in Japan is all about its aging, drug-hungry population.

To drugstores catering to a failing citizenry, we can now add the next logical step -- private mortuaries. At least, that’s the logic the market appears to be suggesting in one part of the country.

Overworked ovens

With Japan’s famously “graying” (and dying) masses accounting for an ever-larger chunk of the economy, the Kanto area is now seeing the appearance of temporary morgues run for profit.

The new breed of meat lockers comes with one crucial difference -- they look like hotels and charge relatives for body storage by the night.

To take the example of one business in Yokohama called Lastel, the decidedly hotel-like building exists to accommodate corpses waiting “their turn in the queue for one of the city's overworked crematoriums.”

At the current rate of more than a million people dying in Japan each year, public facilities can’t keep up with the flow of corpses.

Instead of the authorities building more ovens -- burial is rare in Japan -- difficulty finding land for new sites means the recently deceased get to spend a few nights in holding at a place such as Lastel.

Boom market

Although it does offer full funeral services, the nightly rate for chilled corpse storage starts at ¥12,000. Rooms, presumably a little warmer, are also available for families.

As for the economic motivation behind the modern death entrepreneur, Japan’s social scientists are expecting a net loss of 20 million citizens between now and 2040.

In other words, expect to see plenty more “hotels” like Lastel and be careful where you check in next time you’re stuck in a strange part of town.