Ito’s ‘Forest of Meditation’ sports a swooping concrete roof and expansive views of the adjacent lake
Japan has the highest cremation rate on earth at over 99 per cent. This is partly due to space limitations, and partly because it accords with the Oceanic tenets of Buddhism, but these were only scaleable thanks to the nation’s rapid technological advancement in the 20th century – cremation did not become widely popular until after the Second World War. Convention dictates that mourners witness the insertion of the coffin into the crematorium oven, and after the remains have been burned family members use large chopsticks to pick the bones out of the ashes, placing them in an urn.
Toyo Ito’s Meiso no Mori or ‘Forest of Meditation’ crematorium provides all the requisite facilities for this ritual: three waiting rooms, two valedictory rooms, a hall with six cremators, and two ‘inurnment’ rooms. The novelty of the structure lies in its swooping concrete roof, which is supported by elegant columns that drop seamlessly to the floor from the soffit. This permits expansive views of the lake beside the building from the glazed circulation areas.