Japanese prepare for the afterlife by testing out coffins

Japan's ageing population are coming to terms with the inevitability of death by planning their funerals

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The Independent Online

Americans and Brits alike will be flocking to the shops on Black Friday in search of the ultimate bargains in the run-up to the Christmas holidays.

Yet while those in the West try on their new clothes and test out the latest technology, people in Japan will be seeing whether their coffins are comfy enough for the afterlife.

That's because there has been a recent boom in Japan's elderly population planning their funerals. Normally such details are left to family members following a person's death. Now however there is an "End of life" preparation trend among people who want to make sure their funeral goes exactly to plan.

These shukatsu tours - where people have portraits taken for their funeral, for example - are incredible popular. Shukatsu means "activities to prepare for the end of your life".

Japan is facing an ageing crisis: according to U.S. Census Bureau projections for the country, by 2040, the working age population will fall by 30 percent, from 81 million to 57 million. According to current trends, Japan will have as many births in 2050 as they did in 1870. Indeed, by 2040, there will be nearly as many people over 100 as there are newborns.

So it is no wonder that there is a boom in the funeral arrangement market. Back in August, Tokyo hosted the annual 'Shukatsu Festa' funeral business fair. Over 50 funeral and ageing business companies exhibited their latest produces and services to around 5,000 vistors.

Now one of Japan's largest shopping chains, Aeon, has ventured into the market and provides people with help such as how to write a legally acceptable will or even offering the pre-dead a chance to try out the right coffin.

Other such preparations include sitting for an official funeral portrait, preparing your burial outfit and some even participate in the simulation of scattering their own ashes.

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