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Shukatsu – The Japanese way of planning for death

Kondo-ing propelled minimalism as a way of bettering life. If purging is on the list of your end-of-life plans to eliminate logistical pains for your loved ones, this one is for you.

17 Mar 2023
Shukatsu – The Japanese way of planning for death

Shukatsu has two meanings in Japanese.

Interestingly, the first refers to the process of finding a job; Shukatsu is short for shūshoku katsudō, which means job-hunting activity. This is probably most relevant to college students.

The second refers to the process of planning for death. It’s a play on the first meaning. This is a movement that started sometime around 2009 and has been gaining steady momentum over the years. 

There’s even a Shukatsu Festival, where you can plan in exact detail what your funeral might look like.

Here, you can try out coffins, sample makeup products, hairstyles and nail art, personalise burial attire and take funeral portraits.

Considering Japan’s ageing population, it makes perfect sense. But here’s the kicker: it’s not just the elderly who’re planning for their eventual demise: even people in their 20s and 30s are doing so!


Why are they planning for death so early?

While there are many motivations behind why one might practice Shukatsu, there is one that overwhelmingly takes precedence: The Japanese do not want to inconvenience their family members in the event of their death.

Other reasons include: Worrying they might become incapacitated and unable to look after themselves, as well as be able to die on their own terms.

Interestingly, a lot of the death planning in Japan centers around how to deal with their belongings. 


People are trying to declutter their lives long before they pass away; to throw things away when they still have the physical strength to do so. There’s an entire industry dedicated to the removal of this!

Almost common is the writing of ‘ending notes.’ These letters or messages convey what is difficult to say in a culture where indirectness is prized. 

The contents can range from sharing traumatic life experiences, to expressing feelings such as love, regret or remorse. Compilations of these messages have also been posthumously published as books! 


Shukatsu for Singapore?

We might not practice Shukatsu (yet) in Singapore, but given that Singapore does have an ageing population, perhaps it’s worth serious consideration.

Apart from clearing your belongings and writing ending notes, there are several things you can do to make your own death as smooth as possible for your loved ones.

These include: 

●      Appointing a lasting power of attorney (LPA). While this doesn’t deal directly with your death, it allows a person who is at least 21 years of age to voluntarily appoint one or more persons to make decisions and act on his behalf should he lose mental capacity one day. A donee can be appointed to act in the two broad areas of personal welfare and property and affairs matters.

●      Writing a will. This is a legal document that dictates how your estate is to be distributed after death. This gives you the ability to specify detailed instructions to be carried out, and who shall receive the inheritance. If you don’t have a will when you pass on, your estimate will be distributed according to the Singapore Intestate Succession Act.

●      Creating Advance Medical Directive. This is a legal document that you sign in advance to inform the doctor treating you (in the event you become terminally ill and unconscious) that you do not want any extraordinary life-sustaining treatment to be used to prolong your life.

●      CPF Nomination. This allows you to decide where your CPF savings go to after you die. Your nominee(s) will also receive your CPF savings more quickly (within five weeks), with no fees charged.

●      Insurance Nomination. The insurance nomination details how you, as the policy owner, want the insurance proceeds to be distributed after you’re gone. 

Planning for your death can be scary, but it doesn’t have to be. Our financial representatives can help you with estate planning, as well as your insurance nomination. 

Let us match you with a qualified financial representative

Our financial representative will answer any questions you may have about our products and planning.


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