A hotel quiet as the grave

Japan’s Lastel Hotel is a hotel exclusively for dead people
An employee of funeral operator Lastel adjusts flowers inside a viewing room where coffins are delivered through hatches whenever friends and family come to pay their respects to the dead during a photo opportunity in Yokohama, south of Tokyo September 10, 2011. Death is a rare booming market in stagnant Japan and the Lastel corpse hotel, where bereaved families can check in their dead while they wait their turn in the queue for one of the city’s overworked crematoriums, is just one example of how businessmen are trying to tap it. Picture taken September 10, 2011. To match feature JAPAN/DEATH REUTERS/Yuriko Nakao (JAPAN - Tags: OBITUARY BUSINESS)
A hotel quiet as the grave
Yuriko Nakao/Reuters

A hotel in a suburb of Japan’s second-largest city, Yokohama, has been forced to turn away several couples looking for a place to stay. Why? Because the Lastel Hotel is a hotel exclusively for dead people—waiting their turn for a place in the city’s overcrowded crematoriums. The deceased (there are 18 “guests” so far) are stored in cold-storage rooms, in refrigerated coffins. Each coffin costs roughly 12,000 yen ($157) daily to rent.

According to Britain’s Daily Mail, death has become a “booming market” in Japan, with 1.2 million people dying in 2010. By 2040, annual deaths are anticipated to reach 1.66 million. Hisayoshi Teramura, the Lastel Hotel’s owner, notes that Japan’s largest farming association and one of the country’s biggest retail chains, Aeon, have also gotten into the body-storing business. Indeed, the average wait time for a crematorium oven in Yokohama is over four days, putting hotels like Lastel in high demand. “Otherwise people have to keep the bodies at home,” says Teramura, “where there isn’t much space.” At Lastel, families can view their deceased relatives in their respective “hotel” rooms, until crematorium space opens up.