The Weekend Australian - Magazine - - FRONT -

Last turn on the rite It is a sys­tem fa­mil­iar at fast-food chains across the world: drive in, roll down the car win­dow, con­duct the trans­ac­tion with the op­er­a­tive in the booth and within a few min­utes you are on your way. It works well for burger joints, and will soon be put to use by a Japanese funeral par­lour. When the South Ueda Palace of Rest opens in the com­ing weeks it will of­fer the coun­try’s first “drive-through funer­als” in which mourn­ers can light in­cense, pray and sign the book of con­do­lence from in­side their ve­hi­cle. Japanese cul­ture at­taches the high­est im­por­tance to funeral rit­u­als; this is not about the con­ve­nience of im­pa­tient cus­tomers but the phys­i­cal needs of mourn­ers in a rapidly age­ing so­ci­ety. “Peo­ple pass judg­ment on us be­cause they don’t look beyond the words ‘drive-in funeral’,” says Masao Ogi­wara, the un­der­taker be­hind the idea. “But Ja­pan is the most el­derly so­ci­ety in the world and this will al­low peo­ple to say their good­bye. This is not about busi­ness – it is our duty.”

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