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When Your Pet Dies In Japan

Losing a cherished animal companion can be devastating. Here’s what to do when your pet dies in Japan.

By 5 min read

Living with pets can bring much joy to our lives. As foreigners in a foreign land, having a pet can be even more rewarding. After finding a pet-friendly apartment, the companionship can brighten our days in immeasurable ways. However, amidst the daily adventures and cherished moments, there comes a time when we must confront the inevitable. That said, what do we do when a pet dies in Japan?

Navigating what to do when a pet passes away can be a poignant and sometimes bewildering experience, particularly in a foreign country like Japan. While the emotional toll of saying goodbye remains universal, the cultural and logistical aspects of handling a pet’s passing may differ from what one might expect in their home country.

From cultural customs surrounding death and mourning to practical considerations like pet cremation services and memorial options, understanding the steps to take when a pet dies in Japan can provide solace during a difficult time.

Government Disposal Services

Photo:
A funeral for a beloved cat in Japan.

Laws and customs for when a pet dies in Japan can be confusing, especially when trying to understand them in a state of bereavement. The main thing to remember is that it is illegal to bury an animal in a public place such as a park or forest. Burials, in general, are very uncommon in Japan. Instead, cremation is the preferred method.

Cremation, called kasou (火葬) in Japanese, can be done at the municipal level or by a private entity, usually a temple or third-party business. There is a large variety of services available from both temples and companies. While some details may vary, the basic structure is generally the same across the different outlets. The fee will depend on the service requested as well as the size of the animal. Most service providers will have a price table displayed on their website.

Also, dog owners must notify their local municipality that their dog has passed on. This is not necessary for other animals.

Price and Searching

At the most basic level, you can contact your local municipality to take care of your deceased pet. The actual procedure will depend on the city or area in question. Shinjuku in Tokyo, for example, will collect your pet for a fee (listed as ¥3,000 per animal) and then arrange for an animal cemetery to cremate and bury it jointly.

Note that some smaller municipalities may not offer this service and will direct you to nearby temples and businesses. Please see your local municipality’s website for more detailed information on what to do when your pet dies in Japan.

If you want to search for services in your area, try these phrases and your ward name:

  • ペット死んだら (when a pet dies)
  • ペット死亡 (pet death)
  • E.g., ペット死亡大田区 (pet death Ota-ku)

Temples and Pet Cremation Services

Photo:
A cremation service will provide an urn for your departed pet.

It’s common practice for temples and businesses to come to your home to collect your pet’s remains. Many are available 24 hours a day, all year long. What happens next depends on the service tier that you request. No matter which you choose, however, the services are generally respectful and befitting of the circumstances.

As for whether to choose a temple or private business, that depends largely on your own personal feelings. Pet cremation companies are also sometimes affiliated with a shrine.

Tier 1: Goudou 合同

Goudou means “jointly” or “together.” At this level, the service provider will collect the remains and cremate them jointly with other animals. They will then inter the ashes in a cemetery. This is the least expensive option, often about half the price of higher tiers. Some entities may refer to this as reien kuyou (霊園供養), or cemetery memorial plan.

Tier 2: Kobetsu Ichinin 個別一任

Here, the service will collect your pet and cremate it individually (the kobetsu part of the name). They may handle the cremation on-site or bring a special pet-use mobile crematorium to your residence. This is generally a minivan with a special oven in the back. According to Japanese custom, the staff will handle everything, including the transference of bones into the urn. You will then receive the urn to keep at home. Temples associated with pet cemeteries may allow you to intern the bones at their cemetery.

If you prefer that your pet be cremated individually but aren’t familiar with Japanese funerary practices, this could be a good option to choose. This is the most popular option at Pettosogi 110 Ban, a national Japanese pet funerary service.

Tier 3: Tachiai 立会

The topmost option, tachiai, is similar to kobetsu ichinin but allows family members to place the bones into the urn themselves. This is done at the back of the mobile crematorium, which opens to reveal a kind of mini funeral area supervised by a staff member. You will also be given the chance to offer incense and pray.

When finished, you can keep the urn at home on an altar or elsewhere. Temples associated with pet cemeteries may allow you to intern the bones at their location.

While a plain white urn in a white-decorated box is standard, there are often other kinds of receptacles to choose or add, such as multicolored boxes, key chains and even services where they turn the ashes into diamonds.

Pet Cremation Services in Japan

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Mobile cremation services will offer the respect your pet deserves.

Your local municipality’s website is the best place to start your search for an appropriate service, but here are a few to consider in some major metropolitan areas.

Do you have experience using a pet cremation service? If you feel comfortable talking about it, please let us know the service you used in the comments.

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