LED Buddha Vaults & Smart Card Entry: High-Tech Cemetery in Tokyo

When visiting a deceased loved one at this Tokyo cemetery, you’ll swipe a smart card upon arrival at the door so that the particular LED Buddha statue representing the correct vault will light up, making it easy to locate on a wall of identical figures.  At Ruriden, a futuristic charnel house belonging to Koukoko-ji temple, cremated remains are kept in storage lockers in this unusually high-tech environment, eliminating the need for loved ones to maintain graves.

Traditionally, each family in Japan would own a plot of land and a stone tomb in a physical cemetery, costing up to $40,000 and requiring upkeep and maintenance fees. But as space gets tighter in the urban areas, the prices for those tombs are getting out of control, and cemeteries like Ruriden are stepping in to offer an alternative.

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You may not even be able to touch the glass separating your hand from that little glowing buddha if your relative’s vault happens to be high up on the wall of 2,046 altars, but seeing the statue illuminated can help provide a sense of connection to the gravesite, and you can still access the remains.

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When you visit, the remains will be delivered to a communal vault in the floor via a forklift and conveyer belt system. A digital slideshow puts images of your deceased loved one on display. Ashes are stored in these vaults for 33 years for family visits, before being buried below the Ruriden.

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600 of the plots are currently in use, and 300 more have been reserved by elderly Tokyo residents planning for their own deaths. Vice recently took a tour of the complex and spoke to people shopping for their own high-tech graves. Employees at the cemetery even speculate on the possibility of interactive, holographic representations of dead relatives in the future. Read the whole story at Vice.

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Top two images via Vice/Emiko Jozuka; remaining images via Ruriden.jp