YOKOSUKA, Kanagawa -- Amid a boom in making death preparations while still living, this city will become the first in Japan to offer a "death preparation" information registration for its residents starting in May.
The activities carried out to prepare for one's death while still living has been dubbed "shukatsu," a play on the shukatsu that refers to the job seeking process central to beginning the careers of young people in Japan. However, instead of "hiring" activities, these are "ending" activities.
The new service will allow the municipal government to share the information concerning burial location and a document listing preferences for other arrangements. According to the Yokosuka Municipal Government, it is the first in Japan to have a governmental institution available to register information as detailed as burial location.
There are 11 items about which the government plans to keep record as part of the shukatsu service, including personal information such as the individual's permanent address as listed in their family registry, current address if it differs, emergency contact information and family doctor, along with storage for their will and the location of their family grave, a living will concerning life-support treatments and notes about final arrangements, and even intentions to donate organs.
Users do not have to fill out every question, and can pick and choose which information to register with the city. In the case that the person registering information happens upon unseen circumstances, then the municipal government can relay the information to relatives, hospitals, welfare facilities and other related parties chosen by the individual.
Currently, the number of elderly people living alone is growing, and family connections are also becoming weaker. It is because of this that even if someone has made arrangements for their passing, when the time comes, they are unable to make those wishes known to those around them.
According to the Yokosuka Municipal Government, cases where someone has chosen a grave site unbeknownst to their relatives, and the family is then unable to place the individual's ashes in a tomb are becoming more common. There are also many cases where the location of the documents outlining arrangements is unknown to relatives, putting the individual's work into preparing for the end of their life to waste. To avoid these unfortunate situations, the Yokosuka Municipal Government started the registration system.
In cases where individuals are unable to properly convey their wishes to those around them due to medical conditions like dementia, family and friends are allowed to also register information with restrictions.
In recent years, the number of lone burials conducted because relatives have declined to be involved has risen in Yokosuka. Since July 2015, the municipal government began offering support services to low-income seniors to act as an intermediary to conclude contracts with funeral service companies and other end-of-life plans. However, since the majority of those who came to consult the city about such services were not eligible due to their income bracket or other circumstances, the local government decided to offer the services without any conditions.
(Japanese original by Nobumichi Iwasaki, Yokohama Bureau)