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In Japan, new dissolving urn inspired by sea angels sends human ashes to ocean floor

Scattering ashes is a way to add meaning to a cremation, by choosing a location holding significance for the deceased or their loved ones. In Japan, people have a new option: the 'Deep Sea Funeral' developed by Mondial Co., Ltd., a Tokyo-based creative agency. Mondial designed an urn specifically for delivering a deceased person's remains to the ocean floor. Shaped like a clione, a tiny marine creature known as a sea angel, the urn has two 'wings' that allow it to sink serenely while spiraling through the water.

The urn is made of natural mudstone from Okinawa that dissolves in water. For JPY 998,000, a person's remains are enclosed in an urn, and up to ten friends or family members are taken by boat to Suruga Bay, at least 5 km offshore, where the ocean is over 2,000 meters deep. Once there, the urn is lowered into the water and takes just over a minute to reach the bottom of the bay, which stretches out below Mount Fuji. A salute and flower offering follow, and the boat circles the burial site three times before returning to the port.

Mondial issues a deep sea burial certificate that includes the site's exact coordinates. These are also shared as a link to Google Earth, providing a virtual grave marker. In spring 2024, digital avatars of the deceased will be offered as an optional extra, allowing people to 'communicate' with them through an AI-powered interface.

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Mondial's Deep Sea Funeral reflects shifts in societal attitudes towards death, mourning and memorialization. It offers a distinctive way to honor loved ones, especially those with deep connections with the ocean or desiring a non-traditional resting place. Meanwhile, the ceremony associated with the funeral — taking a boat out to sea, performing a salute and flower offering and circling the burial site — caters to a need for meaningful rituals.

There are practical considerations, too: cities are running out of cemetery space and burial plots are often limited to temporary leases. No wonder cremations and natural alternatives are soaring. A demographic shift also comes into play: with more people not having children, who would visit a grave or renew a lease? As Mondial notes, "Even if people have children, it's a bit unsettling to rely on descendants to protect the graves of their ancestors." Natural burials and ash scatterings alleviate those concerns. How could your brand bring meaningful innovation to death and remembrance?

Related: First composting facility opens to transform human remains into soil