Graveyard Tourism The Next Big Thing For Dead Japanese

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Picture Credit: CEN & CEN/Instagram

Graveyard tourism is the next big thing for Japanese tourists visiting Europe with busloads stopping at a quirky funeral museum and some even buying up spots next to famous historical people.

Vienna’s Central Cemetery is one of the world’s biggest with over 330,000 graves and tombs spread around 590 acres in the Simmering suburb of the Austrian capital.

On the cemetery grounds, there is also the quirky Vienna Funeral Museum, showcasing 300 funeral items such as death masks, coffins and hearses.

Bizarrely enough, local citizens report that the museum is wildly popular with Japanese tour groups, as busloads of people are being dropped off at the museum, far from Vienna’s historical centre, as it is however conveniently located on the way back to the airport.

The museum also includes a bizarre funeral shop in which Japanese and other tourists can buy a toy funeral set.

Yet the fascination of Japanese tourists with death does not stop at seeing the graves of such greats as Beethoven and Strauss or visiting the funeral museum.

Now Austrian local media are reporting that a Japanese undertaker has reserved 300 urn tombs at the Vienna Central Cemetery for Japanese tourists who feel that after their own deaths, they would like to take a trip abroad and be buried among some of history’s greats.

Undertaker Nariyasu Mishima said: “I believe that there will be many customers.”

He is now advertising in major Japanese cities the chance to be buried among such music legends as Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms and Strauss.

In 2013 Mishima bought a vault in the prominent old arcade, the oldest and most prominent building at the Central Cemetery, in which he will now make room for some 300 urns.

The Japanese undertaker, himself a musician, is convinced that in his home country there are hundreds of music fans who would like to be buried close to their classical music heroes.

Mishima said: “I have a great relationship with classical music through my studies. When I was in Vienna a couple of years back and visited the Central Cemetery, I felt that I wanted to be buried next to the musical geniuses myself.”

Spokesman Florian Keusch of the Vienna Funeral and Cemetery organisation confirmed that the Central Cemetery has indeed a deal with Mishima’s company “World Music Cemetery” but said that the use of the graves is limited to 100 years.

The Vienna Bureau of Vera Redlich, who speaks Japanese, deals with all local affairs for Mishima’s company.

Redlich said: “The place under the arcade is for people who chose for a cremation. Part of the ashes of the deceased will be flown to Vienna, the rest stays in Japan.”

According to the wishes of the customer she can also arrange such things as music accompaniment for the funeral and a pick-up of relatives from the airport and accommodation in a hotel.

A Vienna musical funeral does not come cheap as the total package, which includes the transportation and burial in the tomb under the arcade, is priced at around 24,000 EUR (21,080 GBP).

Viennese cemetery and funeral expert Julius Mueller regularly organises guided tours through the Central Cemetery and said that Japanese tourists indeed have a fascination for the graveyard as his tours get booked by them a lot.

Mueller said that they are all however “practically only interested in the graves of the musicians.”

So far all 300 spots for urns which Mishima’s company offers are still vacant. He has so far sold four places, but luckily none of his customers have died yet.


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Story By: Koen BerghuisSub-EditorJoseph Golder, Agency: Central European News