You Can Now Order A Priest On Amazon In Japan

by duke_harten, 6 years ago | N/A

Ines Vuckovic/Dose

Rent-a-priest makes funerals easier than ever before.

The New York Times reported last month that Japan has introduced a priest delivery network to its scattered Buddhist community. The service, called obosan-bin (priest delivery), is run through Amazon and offers several tiers of religious burial for Buddhists who don’t live near a temple.

The going rates? A no-frills memorial at home runs you $336, or you can shell out nearly double that ($624) for a graveside service and official bestowment of a Buddhist name upon the deceased.


The program was started by Minrevi Co. in 2009 and has been growing ever since. (The company also offers, oddly enough, dental services.)

There have, of course, been some queasy reactions to the Uber-meets-afterlife startup. According to the Times, most of the program’s detractors point to its “unseemliness” — that is, it just feels wrong. There’s also the economic factor to consider. Says Hanyu Kabuko of the anti-obosan-bin Japan Buddhist Federation: “If it becomes a fee for services instead of a donation, and the government says, ‘O.K., we’re going to tax you like a regular business,’ how are we supposed to object?”

Those who support the program champion its obvious values: convenience, economic clarity (as opposed to the “murkiness” of expected donations at a brick-and-mortar temple) and the preservation of Buddhist values in otherwise underserved parts of Japan.

Kazuhiro Nogi/Getty

So who’s right? Idealistically, perhaps the old-school guys. The Unseemly Argument does hold water, no matter which way you spin things. Ordering a priest off the internet sounds like the setup to a bad joke.

But pragmatically? It’s a money game. Japan’s Agency for Cultural Affairs says that revenue at temples has dropped a third in the last two decades, while the obosan-bin website (and its Amazon affiliate) expect a 20% jump in bookings this year.

Couple that with the report from TimeOut that a traditional temple memorial goes for around $1,000, and it’s tough to see why the Japanese would go retro with their death arrangements. (Especially in a country where more than half the population identifies as non-religious.)

Can’t argue with the almighty yen.