Japan’s Booming Death Business: ENDEX, The End Of Life Exhibition

Japan’s rising death rate is good business for ENDEX: The End Of Life Exhibition. We discover that it’s more than just Hello Kitty urns!

Unseen Japan
11 min readSep 5


By Jake Adelstein

Standees of a cartoon boy in a white t-shirt with a "T" logo as he puts his hands to his face in shock upon seeing a standee of himself in a state of decomposition, looking like a cartoon zombie, at the showroom floor at ENDEX.

By Jake Adelstein and Amy Yoshida-Plambeck

Japan has too many bodies to burn.

It’s all part of a new old Japan that has graduated from “the aging society” to “the many dying society.” There’s a buzz word — and sort of a buzz-kill word–that’s increasingly being bandied about here now–多死社会 (ta-shi-shakai). I suppose you could translate it as “high-mortality society,” or maybe “many dying community.” But the real meaning is closer to “a society where more people are dying than being born.”

The number of deaths in Japan reached a record high last year, with more than 1.56 million people passing away. As Japan’s death rate outstrips the number of new births, there’s an unexpected shortage of crematoriums — and a booming “end of life” business.

Due to this surge in deaths, a growing issue of “waiting for cremation” has emerged. 1 in 10 cities suffers a shortage now, according to an industry study. In some cases, families have to wait up to 12 days for a cremation slot, leading to additional storage costs for the deceased’s body.

But the problem isn’t just a lack of crematoriums. Rising demand for means and methods of dealing with the dead has caused an unexpected business boom for cold storage manufacturers, private crematoriums, and cosmetics and preservatives for the dead.

And you find out about all of it at ENDEX.

The high-ceilinged show halls of ENDEX with multiple booths showing kimono, hearses, and more.
The voluminous halls of ENDEX.

ENDEX: The Trade Fair of the Dead

Here in Japan, death doesn’t mean your impact on other’s lives has come to an end. With a tradition of visiting family graves and Buddhist traditions of holding scheduled memorial services for the departed–even when someone physically dies, they remain a part of the lives of the living for years to come.



Unseen Japan