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's a final resting place for Japan's lost dead, dozens of burial urns lie unclaimed, stored in a cave near Tokyo. They're victims of an aging society struggling to care for its dead. Across Japan it's a pattern that's being repeated a thousand times over. The cave in the city of Yokosuka is now full.
And officials have started storing ashes at the city office. In the past most of these unclaimed burial urns contain the ashes of people that government hadn't been able to identify but as Reuters Malcolm Foster reports, that's changing>> Government officials at the local level are already doing I think as much as they can.
They're cremating the remains of these deceased people and storing them at public expense. They're trying to contact relatives, sometimes when they track them down the relative says, I don't want to have anything to do with that person or it's not my responsibility. It reflects more just social and economic change going on in Japan.
>> Japan is aging faster than any other country in the world. At the same time, the population is shrinking meaning that there are fewer people to care for the elderly, and social safety nets are starting to disappear.>> Japanese families are more scattered as young people move to the cities and families move with jobs.
And that's contributed to weakening family bonds and obligations.>> Experts say that poverty also plays a role with man of Japan's elderly living on welfare, unable to pay for their own funerals, which can cost more than $17,000. In some places, the government is stepping in. The city of the Yokosuka is offering residents a funeral plan covering most of the cost of the cremation and burial.
80 years old Sunitaka Holiguci has no children of his own, and has worried what would become of his remains. But he signed that pro plan that guarantees him a spot at a local temple. He says he finally feels at peace.