1. Features of “&”
“&” is a reimagining of the status quo of graves, which demands that only those who belong to the same family register may be buried together. / “&” is a special grave just for two people. / With “&”, the two can be buried together regardless of their relationship. (Spouses, lovers, friends, same-sex partners, etc.) / “&” is burden-free. There are no grave maintenance fees that weigh down the surviving generations. / “&” is a fresh and clean, white marble grave. / “&” is in the shape of a simple cylinder which is easy to hug, to touch, and to talk to. / Various layouts are possible with “&”, regardless of the shape of the plot and the divisions of the cemetery.
2. Noteworthy Points of “&”
The shape of conventional graves is created by layering square stones in a step formation atop each other. On the other hand, “&” graves for two are 1.2 meters high, and 20 centimeters in diameter. They are made to match people’s height. The size of the grave is such that, when crouching in front of it, the names on the graves appear at eye level, and when standing up, they come to chest-level. We gave consideration to the ease of directly touching the grave, talking to the departed, hugging them, and so on. From the benchmark of conventional graves, we set as our goal a friendly grave which one could hold on to and feel with one’s body.
[Versatility of Layout]
The size or shape of the plot do not affect this simple, cylindrical grave. Since various layouts such as straight and curved lines are possible, places of prayer of varying sizes can be created. This allows for park-like designs that are attuned to the natural environment, and may lead to new picnic-like styles of visits to cemeteries. Moreover, it is also a design system that is compatible with the large-scale developments of cemeteries and the like in the past, which are run-down and pockmarked with empty plots.
3. The Reasons behind the Birth of its Design
In today’s society, the state of affairs surrounding graves are undergoing change. Conventional family and relative-unit graves, passed down generation after generation, are becoming more difficult to maintain year by year. The backdrop to this includes various social circumstances, including the shift from extended families to nuclear families, the graying population, the declining birthrate and the increase in the average age of marriage. The number of people who can take over from preceding generations and continue to care for the upkeep of graves is falling. There is also a rising number of graves for which there is not a soul left to manage the care. There also exists a rising demand for joint burial in perpetual memorial service graves. From these circumstances, the new two-person unit “&” grave service, which impose no burden of care or inheritance on surviving family members, were born.
4.The Thoughts of the Designer
The graves which are such a common sight, built by piling up large square stones in a step formation, were originally designed in shape to be imitations of Buddhist pagodas (stupas). Their shapes have roots in traditional Buddhist teachings. Over a long period of time, having become widely recognized and familiar, people have naturally come to feel like putting their hands together in prayer when standing before a grave. Though the times bring various changes with the progression of society, the feelings towards prayer must be preserved with great care. It is within this medley that the idea was born to create a new type of grave with a friendly shape which people could grasp onto in a physical sense as well. Putting one’s hands together / bowing one’s head, standing up / crouching, touching / hugging. This new shape of grave was designed to give shape to the various movements and actions taken in front of the grave, and the visitors’ bodies and their relationship with the grave itself.
5. Design Points
Through the design that is gentle to people, “&” links the feelings of visiting and worshipping the grave with various potentials of the future.
6. Differences from traditional graves
We have completely reimagined the design of the traditional grave. The grave takes the shape of a 120 cm tall cylinder that is 20 cm in diameter. Using white marble, we have been able to create a clean and fresh white grave. The remains are not interred in the earth, but rather within the gravestone itself. It does not serve as a marker of the place where the departed is buried. Our aim was to design a grave which would act as a “symbol” – an embodiment of the deceased themselves. In a departure from the conventional grave with its associations of “parting”, we brought into existence a bright design that realizes instead the “new beginning” of the two and their fresh vows.
7.Our Achievements Thus Far and Additional Features
The concept of the “grave for two, free in nature, regardless of relationship” has come about with extensive guidance and interest from persons in common-law marriages and sexual minorities. This follows from the rising awareness of LGBT in recent years, with large numbers of spots in newspapers, TV magazines and other media. In order to be able to create an environment in which we could confidently provide for sexual minorities, all of our Buddhist monks and personnel have endeavored to gain enlightenment by listening to LGBT lectures, and holding symposiums with groups related to the LGBT community, among other things. Moreover, the field for gender was removed from the contract, and “&” gravestones can be engraved with one’s common name; real names are not required.