600 meters off a quiet side road near Ushigome-yanagichō Station in Tokyo you will find a cat guarding the path to a temple…


Surrounding the temple is of course a cemetery, but also one special building…


Upon entrance visitors tap a digital “IC” card that opens up the doors and recognize the family visiting…


Visitors walk inside to an octagonal room where the walls are lined with grids of small glass sculptures representing the buddah. They re-tap their card in a small foyer before this room, walk forward to an altar, light a candle and incense, say a prayer, and then also ring a bell….


Slowly the the statues are all each illuminated by LED lights projecting a dim blue color, which slowly changes between purple, green, yellow and red…


One small square however remains separate from the grid, continuously illuminated white. This small statue represents a family member or loved one of the visitor who passed away. The ashes are interred in a vault in the back of the mausoleum / columbarium, but the small statue represents a embodiment of the spirit as people pay their respects.


Rather than being like a Las Vegas light show (as I had expected) the color change is so slow and mellow that it is barely noticeable. And as the colors change, so does the mood in the room, allowing the visitors to meditate on death, remembrance of their loved ones, and the stages of life.


This mausoleum, Ruriden, is rare moment where the high tech culture of Japan also blends with spirituality embedded in traditions of the past. To take care of a cemetery plot is a lot of work and this solves the problem for many older people who’s families have spread far or will end after this generation. However, during the course of my hour visit, three separate families visited this space, and the memories of the lives represented by these statues are definitely not lost.


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