Duke University Press Books
With an aging population, declining marriage and childbirth rates, and a rise in single households, more Japanese are living and dying alone. Many dead are no longer buried in traditional ancestral graves where descendants would tend their spirits, and individuals are increasingly taking on mortuary preparation for themselves. In Being Dead Otherwise Anne Allison examines the emergence of new death practices in Japan as the old customs of mortuary care are coming undone. She outlines the proliferation of new industries, services, initiatives, and businesses that offer alternative means---ranging from automated graves, collective grave sites, and crematoria to one-stop mortuary complexes and robotic priests---for tending to the dead. These new burial and ritual practices provide alternatives to long-standing traditions of burial and commemoration of the dead. In charting this shifting ecology of death, Allison outlines the potential of these solutions to radically reorient sociality in Japan in ways that will impact how we think about the end of life, identity, tradition, and culture in Japan and beyond.