Unprofitable Funeral Business in Japan

There are several reasons why funerals are unprofitable now in Japan.

Laws of supply and demand don’t work in the funeral industry in Japan.
This means, funeral business is not profitable.
I’ve been expressing this issue so many times but not so many people really pay attention since they all believe in more demand, better the market.

I, myself, was a funeral director and owned an undertaker company and ran several funeral parlors in and outside of Tokyo.
Last year, in 2022 there were 1 Million 580 thousand deaths in Japan.
Year before, in 2021, there were 1 Million 440 thousand deaths.
There was a hike of 140 thousand deaths.
This number wasn’t supposed to reach until 2033 according to the Japanese government.
In 2035, the death toll was supposed to rise up to 1.6Million people.

Funerals are not profitable anymore in Japan

There are two ways of looking into this number.

One, if the number increases next year (actually this year but the numbers will show up in 2024), it will probably steadily grow for a few more years and drop suddenly.

The other view is that this rise was just last year and this year, it’ll drop down steeply to about 1.48 Million deaths, where the statistics represent.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

The simple answer is that the people have figured out during the COVID days that they no longer need to have big services. 

What are funerals for?  Who do they represent?

People realized that no one wants to attend but they were obligated in the past.

But now, they realized that since it’s no longer obligatory, the family can just say that “We don’t want people to attend except for the immediate family.”  

This became the de facto standard in the funeral rituals.
Many families don’t even want temples and churches to come since it’ll cost more.

The cost of living is rising but not the income itself.
Therefore, unless it’s really necessary such as having a graveyard in a temple, where they need to bury the remains, they will not call the monks for prayers.

Now, this results in the separation of temples and families.

Temples do not usually have another method of income unless they are running public business such as establishing kindergarten (which is exempt from many education laws) or parking spaces.
Some even have an apartment rental business.  BTW, these are all taxed and they file tax.

So, what is profitable in the death industry in Japan?
Funeral itself is not, then what?

Charnel houses which store bones (in Japan, it’s not crushed to powder).
But this requires special permits such as having to be a temple or church or some municipalities.

Another is clearing the graveyard.
But this has a very “sticky” problem which gets stuck if you have a family graveyard in the temple.
You would have to pay some fee (usually a great amount) to the temple for leaving.
It’s like a penalty system for leaving the community.

As I said previously, there was a hike of 140 thousand deaths from 2021 to 2022.
Many think it’s profitable due to pie growing.

But you have to understand the Japanese demographic which the old aged is supporting the older aged, meaning that retired 70 year olds are keeping their 90+ years old parents in the hospitals and nursery homes, where they have no income after being retire except for their pension.

Also, the crematorium fees are rising in Tokyo.
Issue with Kosaido, the parent company of Tokyo Hakuzen that operates crematoriums.

This is causing a lot of issues and even have been discussed in the parliament, in the Japanese government.
Yes, it’s a government issue since the crematorium that owns 60% of shares in Tokyo is owned by the Chinese investors which keep on raising the price.
Public service that is offered (controlled) by a corporation for profit where it’s mostly monopolizing the market should be scrutinized for their acts.

People have budgets and if the cremation price rises, there’s nothing they can do but pay although there is no law in Japan that you have to be cremated.  This is a different issue with the Muslims living in Japan who request non-cremated burial, where there’s not enough places in Japan.
If the cremation price rises, the total budget for the funeral service will go down.

With this in mind, do you think that funeral business overall is profitable?

Those who have large funeral parlors are forced to redesign to fit the needs and convert large halls to smaller ones.  Thus causing extra cost.

Funeral business is now going up stream and now doing care-taking business.
But this takes time due to longevity of the society.
It’s not really an efficient method but at the moment, this is the only direct path to funerals.

In either case, at the end, you will end up dying alone.

Another route is applying FEM TECH and AGING TECH other than getting involved in the care-taking business. 
I’ll discuss more in the future on this topic.

We also have an Official LINE page

LINE ID: jFuneral