Insisting that cremation was sanitary and that it also saved grave space while facilitating- ancestor worship, cremation supporters appropriated state-sanctioned values and aims to win repeal of the ban only two years after it went into effect. Ironically, the end result of the ban was a widely accepted rationale for cremation, which was transformed from a minority practice into a majority one. By the end of the twentieth century, cremation had become the fate of nearly every Japanese.

In the summer of 1873, the Meiji government’s Council of State declared a nationwide ban on cremation, a Buddhist practice that had long been con­sidered barbaric and grossly unfilial by Confucian and nativist scholars. In response to the prohibition, an alliance of Buddhist priests, educated cit­izens, and even government officials proceeded to argue that, far from being an “evil custom” of the past, cremation was a “civilized” practice suited to the future.