Covid-19 has made it hard for the Japanese to visit family graves

Covid-19 has made it hard for the Japanese to visit family graves

  • But they have found high-tech ways round the problem

Every august the spirits of fallen ancestors rise all across Japan. During obon, the living commemorate them with offerings of food at altars, gather for festivals, and perform collective dances known as bon odori. Many stream back to their home towns to be with family and visit cemeteries to pay respects to their dead. “Graves are a place to talk,” says Yamazaki Masako of Zenyuseki, a tombstone carvers’ trade association.

This year covid-19 has upset the routine. Japan’s viral caseload is relatively small, with just 1,148 total deaths, roughly America’s daily average. But a recent rise in infections, especially in big cities such as Tokyo and Osaka, has spread the jitters. Citizens have been discouraged from travelling home and festivals have been cancelled. Family reunions have been held online to protect vulnerable elderly relatives.