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Story by the BBC's Roland Buerk for "Here and Now"
According to Forbs.com the cost of an average burial plot in the US is around $4,000. In Japan, traditional burial plots are even more expensive, costing tens of thousands of dollars.
So, some people in Japan are turning to a cheaper, high-tech alternative: It’s a building where the ashes of the dead are stored instead of being buried underground.
In this multi-storied graveyard, ashes of the dead are kept in urns on shelves in a vault, with a robotic arm to retrieve them for remembrance ceremonies.
"With this kind of system, we can store a lot of remains so you don't have to visit a graveyard far away," said a representative at the facility through a translater. "The cost will be half or a third of a normal graveyard in Tokyo because we can store many remains compared to a normal graveyard, so we can offer a reasonable price."
The price is 380 thousand yen, about $4,000 dollars, which may not seem cheap, but it's a bargain for a final resting place in Japan.
There are racks of the rectangular-shaped urns. A huge automated crane moves between the shelves of urns, rapidly collecting the ones being requested by visitors.
Visitors use swipe cards and a touch screen to summon the urns to a "mourning room" where they come to pay tribute to the deceased.
Here, visitors touch a panel and a screen pulls back to reveal a black marble gravestone; in the middle of which, the requested urn appears. In front of the gravestone is a small water fountain and photos of the deceased on an electronic photo frame.
The Japanese have turned to technology for solutions to many of the problems of life; and now death too. Three hundred families have placed the ashes of their loved-ones in the building so far.
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