Shortage of space in Japan’s big cities influences so many aspects of life, and of death. The Aoyama Cemetery in Tokyo, for example, is located on some of the world’s most valuable land, making securing a spot there nearly impossible and extremely expensive. So about a decade ago, architects and engineers started designing vertical cemeteries to provide final resting places for the country’s urban population. Noriko Hayashi photographed these futuristic cemeteries, where LED lights and advanced technology provide a backdrop to ancient Buddhist rituals. The resulting project is a mirror of today’s Japan and its sometimes jarring combination of ultra-modernity and tradition. She joined R&K from her home in Tokyo.
Roads & Kingdoms: Why were you interested in photographing Japan’s high-tech cemeteries?
Noriko Hayashi: I photographed them as part of a group project called Future of Cities organized by my agency Panos Pictures and Sony. I was asked to do a story from Japan that reminded me of the future. I thought this was a great story because it says something about the future of Tokyo, but of other global cities as well.
R&K: How popular are these cemeteries in Japan?
Hayashi: They are very popular in major cities. In Tokyo, a plot of land at a traditional cemetery can cost $100,000. It’s very expensive. These modern cemeteries that I photographed are cheaper and much easier to access. You can always stop by after a day of shopping or after dinner. These cemeteries are also popular among specific populations, for example same-sex couples who cannot be buried together next to the traditional family tomb because many people in Japan refuse to do it. All these things make these modern cemeteries a more marketable package.