In space-tight Japan, the dead are cremated. But while urns take up less space than a coffin, even urn-sized graveyard plots are expensive, and a tombstone will set you back about ¥1 million (USD $7K-plus). Thus a company called Balloon Kobo invented a convenient, low-cost and poetic way to dispose of ashes, following a rather creative sort of funeral.
The company grinds the cremated ashes into a fine powder, then somehow gets these inside a balloon. The balloon is then inflated with helium to a diameter of 2 to 2.5 meters. At the funeral, family members simply release the balloon into the sky. The balloon travels upwards for about three hours, rising into the stratosphere. The reduced air pressure causes the balloon to triple or quadruple in diameter, and somewhere between 10km and 50km above the ground, it ruptures, releasing the ashes, which are in theory carried around indefinitely by the wind.
Logistically speaking, it's convenient. The funeral can be held anywhere you can find a free 10m x 10m patch of ground, as long as there's no power lines or skyscrapers within a 45-degree angle in any direction. It's relatively cheap, at ¥240,000 (USD $1,700). And you don't need government or municipal permission, as the ashes are scattered so high that they're effectively nobody's problem.
The company claims environmental friendliness; though they don't say what the balloons are made of, they say that they'll decompose. And the key ingredient of human ashes, they note, is environmentally harmless calcium phosphate. So it's not a bad way to go, particularly if you like to fly.
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