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Seeing death in a new LED light

Glass Buddha statues illuminated by light-emitting diodes (LED) sit inside the Ruriden columbarium at the Koukokuji temple in Tokyo.

The columbarium houses more than 2,046 crystal Buddha statues. Behind each statue is a drawer storing people's ashes, in a modern and visually spectacular way of dealing with death in rapidly ageing Japan.

One in four people in Japan is over 65, and the population of 127 million is expected to shrink by nearly 30 million over the next 50 years.

The ashes are stored for 33 years before being buried below the Ruriden.

In Japan, where Shinto-Buddhism is the predominant belief system, the cremation rate is more than 99 per cent, one of the highest in the world.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 14, 2015, with the headline 'Seeing death in a new LED light'. Print Edition | Subscribe