Tokyo (CNN)A man has been arrested in Japan after allegedly abandoning his father's cremated remains in a subway station restroom.
When Hiroaki Hishijima's divorced father passed away in September last year, officials in Tokyo's Shinjuku ward handled the cremation of his body. According to a report on CNN affiliate TV Asahi, Hishijima went to pick up his father's remains in November for a proper burial ceremony -- but feared his mother would get angry if he brought the ashes home.
Tokyo police told CNN on Tuesday that Hishijima allegedly left the remains in a cubicle inside a men's room on Tokyo station's Marunouchi Line. He was arrested on January 17.
Abandoning bones in a public place other than a cemetery is punishable by a fine or up to three years in prison. And while abandoning remains is rare, the issue of what to do with a deceased loved one or relative is a growing sore point for many Japanese amid a steadily aging population and skyrocketing prices for cemetery plots.
Changing burial practices
Deaths in Japan hit a postwar record high of 1.376 million in 2019, with a natural population decline of 512,000 -- the highest ever. While public cemeteries often have long waiting lists, tombstones at private ones can cost from 500,000 yen ($4,000) to multiple millions, with the location and type of tombstone bumping up prices, according to former funeral director Yusuke Wada. "A plot in Kamakura cemetery will cost you the same as buying a luxurious car such as the Lexus," he said.
Traditionally, cremated remains were stored in burial urns placed in inherited family graves, with relatives paying for maintenance and visiting as often as possible.
But as demands and lifestyles shifted, burial practices also evolved. With single households on the rise in Japan, reliance on an inherited burial sites became less practical. According to Wada, usually people in search of more cost-effective burials opt to hire a boat and pay for their relative's bones to be ground down and scattered into the ocean.