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Kyoto planning to sell cremated people’s precious metal fillings for millions of yen

52 Comments
By SoraNews24

In Japan, people tend to be cremated when they die, which helps our chances somewhat in the event of a zombie apocalypse. However, it is not without its setbacks. Cremation is an energy-intensive process and requires specialized equipment, so the places that can perform it are limited.

Take Kyoto City for example. They’re said to have only one major crematorium at the city-run Kyoto Central Funeral Hall in Yamashina Ward. To make matters more troublesome, in the Kansai regions of Japan, particularly in Kyoto and Nara, there is a very old custom of the bereaved only removing certain bones of the deceased after cremation and transporting them to the family grave. The remaining remains are buried by the crematorium on their own premises.

Kyoto Central Funeral Hall’s “grave,” for lack of a better word, that it deposits all the leftover ashes in together has been filling up recently. As a result, the city instituted a method for reducing the current volume of ashes by sifting out the unincinerated bone fragments and crushing them into smaller pieces, and during this sifting process, precious metals were also found. That’s when a huge golden light bulb turned on over Kyoto Central Funeral Hall.

A proposal was put forward to the city council to sell these metals that were once people’s dental work and survived the cremation. A gold filling here and there certainly isn’t worth a lot, but when filtering 39 tons of ash generated from 13,000 cremations between April and December of last year it adds up.

But don’t take my word for it, here’s a breakdown of the metals acquired:

● 7.1 kilograms of gold

● 0.2 kilograms of platinum

● 21.1 kilograms of silver

● 6.2 kilograms of palladium

All that adds up to 119 million yen in precious metals. The city is currently discussing whether they should proceed with the sale and save the money for use when the funeral hall is in need of renovations. On one hand, it would be a waste to just throw away these useful and valuable substances. On the other hand, the plan certainly has a ghoulish feel to it.

Kyoto City is under no obligation to discuss it, since there’s legal precedence supporting their ownership over the remains. In addition, since all the remains are stored together, it would be nearly impossible to distinguish which metals belonged to whom in an effort to return them. Still, the city would like to get a sense of public opinion on the matter.

If online comments are anything to go by, people seem to understand that it’s a prudent decision, but also agree that it’s kind of creepy.

“I mean, it would be a waste to just throw it away.”

“I think it’s something a demon would do, but it is efficient.”

“I don’t feel good about it, but when you think about the environmental impact of mining these metals, it’s a much better option.”

“I think it’s very responsible to reuse what you can.”

“I think other cities do this to cover the equipment costs.”

“Pre-explanation is essential. Ask the families if it’s OK to remove it and there’s no problem.”

While getting the permission of the bereaved families would be the most ethical thing to do, the problem is that the metals are extracted by processing everyone’s ashes together. So, if just one of the 13,000 deceased’s family members objected, then the whole plan is quashed.

It would seem that city would go ahead with the idea regardless, because as many people agreed, burying 119 million yen is pretty wasteful. For those in the city who don’t want to continue paying taxes from beyond the grave, the best solution is to floss daily and go in for regular cleanings.

Sources: Kyoto Shimbun, Hachima Kiko

Read more stories from SoraNews24.

-- Akiba Dental Clinic: The Akihabara dentist where a moe maid in cosplay cleans your teeth

-- Do-it-yourself funeral kits go on sale in Japan

-- Yahoo! Shopping now offers funeral services in Japan

© SoraNews24

©2022 GPlusMedia Inc.

52 Comments
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With people live longer in Japan their dental will broken at some point and need to be filled, some of them with metal fillings. So Kyoto or other crematorium will get more and more metal dental filling in the future.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Are there plans to recycle the mercury in the amalgam fillings too?

Maybe, that just goes up the chimney to be absorbed by us all?

2 ( +5 / -3 )

Next time you get a new tooth crown it might not be so new and might include someone else's spirit LOL

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Post-mortem taxation, taking any bits of your remains worth having, smacks of desperation.

It seems odd to only get a portion of the ashes - you get them all in the UK. Different countries have different traditions.

A family member had her horse cremated. The ashes are stored in a custom container in her home.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

kurisupisu

Today 07:28 am JST

Are there plans to recycle the mercury in the amalgam fillings too?

> Maybe, that just goes up the chimney to be absorbed by us all?

I would think not due to the fact the Japanese didn't and don't use North american type amalgamate something anyone living in Japan for any period of time should know.

Previously all fillings were cast metal, in more recent times white composites have become common for small fillings.

To be more precise as someone raised in North America my amalgamate fillings frightened all my dentists in Japan when they had to be removed, with some refusing to do the work.

But not to the point the amount of mercury in each filling is so tiny it is negligible.

1 ( +5 / -4 )

I thought it was normal to remove these kind of things from the deceased, I guess it was not as common as I thought. If they are left with the remains I think the city can sell them.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Cremation is an energy-intensive process and requires specialized equipment, so the places that can perform it are limited.

Does the author think Japan is something special?

Every country but perhaps India require special equipment and only certain places can perform cremations.

The USA has more cremations annually than Japan and require more energy because they use fancy caskets and coffins compared to the often plain wood box used here in Japan.

To make matters more troublesome, in the Kansai regions of Japan, particularly in Kyoto and Nara, there is a very old custom of the bereaved only removing certain bones of the deceased after cremation and transporting them to the family grave. The remaining remains are buried by the crematorium on their own premises

I don't know about this place in Kyoto, but having lost a few loved ones and having had to go through the funeral process with my second wife, here in Tokyo/Kanto we collected all the bones and ashes sweeping up everything into her urn and we placed it all in her grave.

The same was done with my children's great grandmother, and other members of our family.

1 ( +5 / -4 )

The fillings belong to the family of the deceased. All the families paying for cremation should receive a rebate. In the country, there are 1.5 million cremations every year.

Cremation requires a lot of natural gas and produces a lot of excess CO². The burning of dental fillings within the cremated remains can also pollute the atmosphere with mercury when the body is cremated.

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

It seems odd to only get a portion of the ashes - you get them all in the UK. Different countries have different traditions.

I think this may be a regional thing.

Here in Tokyo having had to go through this multiple times, we collected all the ashes.

Here is an interesting difference in most western countries the remaining bones and ashes are crushed, in many countries scattering the ashes in the ocean or the mountains, etc.. is permitted, keeping them at home is also permitted.

Not in Japan both these things are forbidden.

So once people stop paying for the grave upkeep, the ashes and bones are removed from the grave, places in a giant common urn and the grave "sold" again to another family.

My late wife is in a fully owned family grave with no fees but this site was purchased a very long time ago and such places today are rare.

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

I'm sorry, but that headline give me the "heebie jeebies." (Pardon my misspelling) Unfortunately, this reminds me of World War 2 in Europe.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

The story also reminds me of synthetic diamonds made out of human ashes (for surviving families, not for sale!). Such recycling may suit the Japanese philosophy of life reincarnation.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I wonder if secretly staff have been pocketing the gold secretly?

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Why not give it back to the family members?

1 ( +2 / -1 )

There is a difference between Western and Japanese cremations. Western ones are at higher temperatures which reduces the bones to ashes. The Japanese cremations are at lower temperatures because the bones need to be preserved so the seven most important are selected and placed in urns to be placed in graves.

We have two urns of bones waiting to be taken to the family grave in Fuji. In America, we have two urns of the ashes of our parents needing to be interned in a military cemetery.

Cremation generally takes about an hour, with an extra thirty minutes or so added on to give the remains time to cool. The ovens reach a peak heat of 500 to 600 degrees Celsius, which is substantially cooler than in the Western process.

In the West, the temperatures are 500 to 1200 degrees Celsius.

In a Japanese cremation the ashes, which contain bone fragments (okotsu[), can be pulverized into a fine powder for an additional cost.

"Children are not exempt from participation in kotsuage. The bone fragments are transferred in order of those of the feet to those of the skull, so that the deceased will be upright within the urn. It is often necessary for the cremator to break the skull so that it will fit into the urn."

"The second cervical vertebra is placed in the urn last by the closest relative. Called 'nodobotoke', or 'throat Buddha', it resembles a meditating Buddha.[29] In Eastern Japan, all of the remains are transferred into the urn, whereas in Western Japan, only some of the remains are collected."

The ashes of famous novelist Yukio Mishima were stolen in 1971 and the ashes of novelist Naoya Shiga were stolen in 1980. The ashes of the wife of the baseball player Sadaharu Oh went missing in December 2002. And this is one downside of cremation—the remains are much easier to pilfer.

There are Japanese companies offering eco-cremations and using cardboard coffins. They also offer burials with tree planting.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

Maybe nice to give it to a charity taking care of old people abandoned by or with no family? I’m sure these crematoriums do ok for themselves, no shortage of customers in these demographics.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

@Antiquesaving

Here is an interesting difference in most western countries the remaining bones and ashes are crushed, in many countries scattering the ashes in the ocean or the mountains, etc.. is permitted, keeping them at home is also permitted.

Not in Japan both these things are forbidden.

In Japan you can crush bones and ashes, it's called 粉骨 (funkotsu). You can bring back the powder in an urn and keep it at home. The crematorium actually asks you if you want this as a part of the process.

Last year, a friend lost her husband of 40+ years and keeps the urn at home.

On my side, one of my cats died this year and I keep the urn at home.

Not sure if there was any change in laws at one point, but in the past I did already see funeral urns (with either human or pets' ashes) being kept in friends' homes.

Now, scattering the ashes is, I believe, forbidden (but I understood a lot of people still do it very discreetly as per the deceased's wised).

0 ( +1 / -1 )

For those deceased that had dental records perhaps its possible to figure out how much of the metals are the possession of that family.

Otherwise any funds that are generated from the sale of such metals should be donated to a charity effort.

It should be a crime to have kept any part of the cremated remains and the fact there's a mass grave is unconscionable and extremely innapropriate

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

There are laws about denying a cremation for a corpse. There are also laws requiring cremations in most cases. There are still some foreign graves where people are buried but like in Kobe only now if there was a previous family grave. Muslims have been campaigning to allow burials.

There are no laws about placing cremation remains in graves. We have two urns in the cupboard needing to go to the family grave in Fuji.

Some families divide up ashes and give them to different family members.

The practice of “haka-mairi,” where one visits the graves of relatives to offer flowers and sticks of incense, has long been a regular activity for the Japanese.

https://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/13817264

0 ( +1 / -1 )

@GBR48

In eastern Japan you get all the ashes but in western Japan only a part of them. It is not just different countries but also different regions that have different customs.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

@Antiquesaving

Scattering the ashes is permitted in Japan.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

@blue

If the bones have been powdered it is okay to scatter them but it is illegal to scatter the actual bones, you will be arrested for 'abandonment of dead body'

0 ( +2 / -2 )

If the bones have been powdered it is okay to scatter them but it is illegal to scatter the actual bones, you will be arrested for 'abandonment of dead body'

No, that's not what abandonment of a dead body is. That charge is for someone who has not notified authorities when someone dies, not for scattering ashes/bones.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

The oddest thing here is that a municipal body fully admits to stealing value from the heirs of the dearly departed. This 'sifting' should be done at the time of cremation and any valuable remains returned, or at least offered, to the heirs. But, apparently, in Kyoto, it's OK to TAKE the property of the formerly living without permission or even consultation and have NO THOUGHT WHATSOEVER of the ethics involved because of the blindness that MONEY creates in some. Not a good look for a venue that touts its 'spirituality'.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

They could sell the remains of the ashes that are not used as fertilizer... Why not?..

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

Scattering the ashes is permitted in Japan.

No it isn't!

There are places where it is permitted but these are nothing more than open cemeteries.

Only "Scattering" must be done via the services of an approved funeral home and in designated areas.

Back home I can do it anywhere on my land, public land federal or provincial parks any public waterway the ocean, etc..

0 ( +3 / -3 )

@Antiquesaving

Scattering the ashes is permitted in Japan.

No it isn't!

Actually, after checking, it seems you are allowed to. It is called 散骨 (sankotsu). Pls refer under "散骨における「節度をもって」の具体例"

https://www.tera-support.co.jp/column.php?id=12

There are a set of rules to be followed, as to size of the remains, location (e.g. inhabited locations such as mountain and forests or out at sea), not on (somebody else's) private property unless allowed to do so, not in vicinity of drinkable water (e.g. lake, river), etc.

On a side-note...

There are places where it is permitted but these are nothing more than open cemeteries.

Only "Scattering" must be done via the services of an approved funeral home and in designated areas.

...This was exactly the situation we faced when my father passed away back in Europe 15 years ago.

My mother and I could only scatter his ashes in what was called a "memory garden" and nowhere else. Unsure what the (legal) situation currently is, as I understood that cremations were gaining quite a lot of traction in Europe since then.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

Scattering the ashes in the hills or the sea has long been considered taboo. Families will place them in a grave or keep them at home. Gardens are good places to put them in a stone urn.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Waste not, want not . . . .

0 ( +1 / -1 )

@wallace

Scattering the ashes in the hills or the sea has long been considered taboo.

Well, not anymore it seems.

One just needs to google for "海洋散骨" (scattering out at sea) or "山林散骨" (scattering in mountains or forests) and loot at the results to see how times have changed.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I know its illegal in most countries, but I'd prefer my body be buried whole, not cremated. That way, the energy content contained within it gets returned to the earth, so that flora and fauna can dine upon it, just as I have dined upon flora and fauna during my lifetime. Thus, the circle of life.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

mmmmm, fillings..........

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I have donated all of my any useful organs please do the same and sign you health insurance card.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Recycling. Good.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Kumagaijin

Today 01:05 pm JST

I know its illegal in most countries, but I'd prefer my body be buried whole, not cremated. That way, the energy content contained within it gets returned to the earth, so that flora and fauna can dine upon it, just as I have dined upon flora and fauna during my lifetime. Thus, the circle of life.

Not sure where you get your information.

Nowhere to my knowledge in the Americas is burial not permitted.

To be exact until quite recently in history the Catholic Church forbid cremation which means most of the south Americas only had burials most of Canada and the USA.

Europe not much different.

All Muslims are buried as are Jews.

Cremation is relatively new in most western countries, the more catholic the fewer cremation.

Prior to the 1980s cremation in Europe was generally below 30%, today it varies widely from 20% in Spain and Portugal to 77% in other northern regions.

Muslims and most Jews are buried quickly without embalming a far more natural way.

Unfortunately in most western countries embalming is customary and contributes to increase in pollution whether buried or cremated.

Formaldehyde contamination in many graveyards is seeping into rivers and streams nearby.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

No, scattering ashes is permitted in Japan while the scattering of bones is treated as 'abandonment of dead body' as I stated above. My wife died last week and therefore I have looked up the relevant laws as they stand today.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Hello Kitty,

I am so sorry for your loss. My understanding is that provided one pays a fee, there are designated spots for ash scattering.

And again, my condolences.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Death shall not be a business.

Transparency is key.

At the same time, recycling is a must.

I wonder where the palladium comes from. Prostethics ?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I wonder where the palladium comes from. Prostethics ?

The teeth fillings.

The casted fillings (those silver/grey metal teeth) are made of a alloyed that contains palladium

Depending on the dentist, casting company, period when made.

Gold, platinum

gold platinum silver

gold Palladium, silver

In reality Silver now makes up the largest percentage

Gold 12~15% , Palladium 15~25% the rest silver was popular as an alternative to gold platinum or gold platinum silver when both platinum and Gold became to expensive.

This was not unique to dentistry at one point jewellery experimented increasing Palladium and Iridium lowering platinum jewellery from 900 Pt to 800 Pt (Europe 950 Pt is standard in Japan it was generally 900 Pt).

So like jewellery Japan has different standards in dentistry.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

My Dad's ashes were scattered in Glencoe... I can't imagine the horror of picking through his ashes for bones. Nope... I couldn't do that.

When my friend's father died she was telling me she and her relatives picked out bones from the ashes... I had to bite my tongue as that really chilled me. I know it's tradition and all that, but... yikes

0 ( +0 / -0 )

HelloKitty 321

I feel your pan and loss.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

HelloKitty 321

I feel your pain and loss.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I don't know how long lived this would be. Today more and more people are choosing ceramic over metal fillings. Of course I suppose titanium implant bases would be worth something.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Many people contain a variety of metals these days with hip and knee replacements. Metal skull caps. Screws and plates in bones.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Am I alone in thinking his practice is most unsavory for a Government agency to perform so openly & brazenly. It reminds me, so tragically, that the Nazis did exactly the same to mostly Jewish victims during the war and that the proceeds went to the coffers of the Third Reich in order to prolong the war.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

@antiquesaving Your comments are very accurate. What is simply driving cremations in western europe is the very high costs of traditional funerals together with media advertising for same. I believe now in France, contrary to other mainly catholic countries, cremating is now the leading form of burial

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

@AntiqueSaving

I believe you are wrong and that there is still mercury in Japanese teeth and it is still not forbidden to use here.

Hiwever, I haven’t met a dentist here still doing them.

I don’t have any in my mouth having had them all removed but I will check the current state of play with my dentist tomorrow at 9am as I (by chance) have an appointment.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Wow !! Okay sell it the donate the $$ to cheraties.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Hmm, grave robbing. The Nazis did something similar.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

There's no reason to give families a choice going forward right? To "donate" the minerals or not. I get perhaps for past cases you can't segregate.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

"No reason to not"

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

This one, if true, needs to result in a massive resignation of all Government officials involved. There are Jewish people here too in Japan (still), can you imagine the impact of this news story when rewritten to say:

"Gold Teeth from Jews Cremated in Japan, being melted down and sold without knowledge of Family members"

I should x-post this one to the Jewish times.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I was previously thinking a Cremation followed by throwing my ashes into the sea would be appropriate, but now, I think simply dumping my body into the Sea old Sailor fashion would be best.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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