Failed Monk Finds Niche In 'Business Hotel For Dead'

TOKYO — LiSS Center Shin-Kiba attracted media attention soon after it opened in December in Koto Ward, Tokyo, because of its unique status as a "business hotel for the dead."

The Shin-Kiba area where the facility stands is mostly occupied by factories, timber storage pools and lumber companies.

The facility keeps bodies of the deceased until families decide on the funeral arrangements. One night's "stay" costs 7,350 yen. It has a refrigerated morgue, which can hold up to 37 "guests," and a tatami mat room where bereaved relatives can stay overnight to reminisce about the person they have lost.

"It's my hope that family members can take the time they need here to discuss what kind of funeral would be suitable," said Nyokai Matsushima, 73, owner of the facility.

Currently, about 80 percent of people die in hospitals. After someone has died, family members have to decide which funeral company they will use, and this is usually done very hastily.

For a long time Matsushima had reservations about this way of doing things.

As soon as the facility opened, a family from Tokyo made a reservation for a 10-night stay, according to Matsushima.

Matsushima is actually a failed monk. He started his monastic training when he was 20, at a temple in Beppu, Oita Prefecture, but dropped out after three years as he "couldn't attain enlightenment," he said.

Having worked at more than 10 different jobs, including a real estate office, Matsushima opened a cemetery in Tokyo at the age of 49, and began to offer new, innovative styles of funeral.

These include graves that are permanently looked after for those who have no one left behind to tend to them; graves which can be "visited" online; and a system that allows clients to arrange their funerals while they are still alive.

"As soon as I hit on an idea for a funeral-related service that answers a current need, I spring into action," Matsushima said. "Of course, I've had more than my fair share of failures in the past." That said, his ideas just seem to keep on coming.