When you want to mourn the loss of someone and wish them eternal happiness in the afterlife without getting out of the car.

When I was at school, one of my friends moved with his family to Seattle, in the U.S., and sent back stories of the new and exotic land in which he lived. While the towering skyscrapers and vast, breath-taking scenery were a world apart from our little village, the thing that interested me most was drive-through cash machines. People wanting to take money out of the bank could do so without even stepping out of their car, something which seemed unnecessary for anyone with functioning legs.

It turns out that isn’t even the half of it, drive-thru funeral viewings are also a, admittedly rare, thing. Japan has now followed suit, opening up funeral services where those in mourning can offer their condolences and burn some incense for the deceased at a convenient window. Presumably the next logical step from drive-through butsudan Buddhist altars.

The Ueda-Minami Aishoden funeral home in Ueda City, Nagano Prefecture, opened its new service on December 17. Using a tablet, the attendee can register their details and leave messages. They will also be able to burn pinches of incense powder and hand over condolence money, as is traditional at Japanese funerals, without having to join a queue.

▼ Funeral attendees in Japan often take a pinch of incense and burn it, three times in total,
although this sometimes changes depending on the number of mourners.

The drive-through aspect is aimed particularly at the growing number of very elderly Japanese people who may find it difficult to stand in line for a long time to see off the deceased, allowing them to attend funeral services they might not otherwise be able to attend, rather than for catering to the time-stripped or simply lazy. The family of the deceased are also able to see and acknowledge drive-through visitors by way of a camera and monitor system installed at the window.

According to the president of the company which runs the funeral home, Juken Takehara, “At first there were some people who said it wasn’t respectful, but recently people have been grateful that we’ve taken these steps for the elderly or the disabled”. Some commenters queried the need for such a facility in the rural area of Nagano, as opposed to a big city where it’s much harder to park, though.

While it seems surreal to have someone do a drive-by condoling, if it allows someone to say goodbye to their friends and loved ones if they wouldn’t be able to otherwise, it’s no bad thing.

Source: Nikkei Shinbun via Hamusoku
Featured image: Twitter/T_chimpo
Insert image: Wikipedia/松岡明芳