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New Paper Urns Becoming a Natural Burial Alternative

The Soso Japan Society, has recently become aware of an interesting new trend in natural burial. As reported by The Asahi Shimbun, the Tokyo-based non-profit exists to promote natural burial practices in Japan. They say that this method reminds them of classic Japanese burial rituals from long ago.

New Vessels

Rather than the traditional ceramic vessels used in cremation, this unique alternative involves placing a loved-one’s ashes into a paper urn. This medium gives family and friends the option to write or even draw on the urn. The practice is giving grieved loved ones a very tangible way to say goodbye to the departed.

Other personal touches are also gaining popularity. Kimiko Shibata buried her mother, Teru, in a paper urn. She custom ordered the urn from a friend who made it from materials similar to his daruma dolls. These dolls were a common point of interest for Kimiko and Teru.

Natural Burial

The purpose of the paper urns is that they can be part of a natural burial process. Unlike typical ceramic urns, these paper alternatives biodegrade, allowing the remains to be reintroduced into the soil. This is the greatest value that the Soso Japan Society sees in this innovated practice. The leader of the Society, Sohei Nishimata, sees this as a valuable addition to the natural burial movement. One of his primary concerns is the input and consent of family members. Provided they are in agreement, he supports the practice

Enpukuji temple

A Buddhist temple in Takasaki in the Gunma Prefecture of Japan is the primary advocate of this slowly growing movement.  They have already buried over twenty of these new urns in a special section of their cemetery. Ten more people have already made reservations prior to their own deaths.

Ryokai Otani, the 62-year old head priest at Enpukuji, started the initiative just over five years ago. In that time, it has grown quietly, but steadily. One big draw to the site for burial is the beautiful view it commands. On a clear day, the “Three Mountains” of Gunma Prefecture, Akagiyama, Harunasan and Myogisan, can be seen from the temple. Families find that these peaceful surroundings are an ideal place for the final resting place of their loved ones.

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