To some people, burying their loved ones or cremating their ashes and storing the remains in an urn is so passe.
Instead, why not make a gemstone or memorial stone from their ashes?
When Yaeko Hijikata, a 63-year-old importer and seller of handicrafts, lost her husband, Kenji, in March 2006, to cancer at age 62, she ordered three memorial diamonds for herself and two daughters from his ashes.
"I thought if his ashes are buried in the grave, I would visit only a handful of times a year," she said. "But with jewelry, I can keep it close all the time."
She said she kept her memorial diamond at home in the beginning, but she now wears it as a necklace when she travels. She added she has already asked her daughters to have diamonds made from her ashes when the time comes.
Thanks to customers like Hijikata, processing services of ashes using cutting-edge technology are hot, such as Toda Sosai Service in Tokyo's Itabashi Ward, which spent 14 years to develop a kiln to make "memorial stones."
"This kiln can create a memorial stone with 100 percent purity," a company official said proudly. "This is the only device of its kind in the world."
Sixty grams of cremated bones are placed in a vacuum kiln and brought to about 1,500 degrees Celsius. They are then cooled and crystalized. The process takes about three hours for the ashes to be transformed into a palm-size small stone.
Stones come in various colors--white, gray or bluish--depending on the components of the bone.
The process is completed after laser engraving the Buddhist name of the deceased on the surface of the stone. In total, one stone costs 210,000 yen ($2,750).
The company has received 250 orders over the past two years, the company official said.
Hidenobu Murakawa, president of Nihon Roki Kougyo Ltd., also located in Itabashi Ward and co-developer of the kiln, compares the memorial stone produced to a "spirit tablet."