Dead in Japan? Yahoo Ending has all you need

Yahoo Japan's end-of-life portal covers everything from online data to cremation

If you kick the bucket in Japan, Yahoo has a new service that can delete your online data as well as your mortal remains.

Launched this week, Yahoo Ending is a portal from Yahoo Japan that's designed to address all your digital and worldly cares.

A promotional animated video shows family members receiving messages on their smartphones from their father who has just died. His words put them at ease.

Once the search engine receives an official notice of death for a user, it will delete all his or her Yahoo Japan data, cancel any charges to Yahoo's digital wallet, expunge files from Yahoo Box online storage and send farewell messages to loved ones.

The service goes beyond that, however. It's aimed at addressing the perception that death can be a worrisome affair in Japan, where the average age of the population is rising against a backdrop of a low birth rate and long life expectancy. People age 65 or older made up one fourth of the population, the government's Statistics Bureau said in April.

Yahoo Ending subscribers, who have to pay for some services, can set up an online "memorial space" with funeral invitations, messages to their family and friends, home movies, personal histories and life aspirations, as well as favorite foods and music.

In partnership with funeral services company Kamakura Shinsho, the search engine is also offering advice on how to write a will, find a grave and plan for a funeral.

"In the past, Japanese could consult with their relatives and neighbors about funeral arrangements, but that's no longer the case," a spokesman for Kamakura Shinsho said. "Who to turn to for advice is the main worry, followed by how much it will cost."

All-inclusive memorial services in Japan, which typically feature a wake, Buddhist funeral, cremation rites and burial of ashes, can average some ¥1.8 million (about US$18,000), he said. The average cost for funerals in the U.S. was about $7,000 in 2012, according to the National Funeral Directors Association.

"Soon it will be 20 years since Windows 95, and with the growth of the Internet comes worries about what happens to online information when one passes away," said a spokeswoman for Yahoo Japan, which is owned in part by Japanese telecom carrier SoftBank.

In the future, Yahoo Ending could be expanded to work with credit card, insurance and other companies to manage a wider scope of personal data left behind when users pass away.

The service is targeting men in their 50s, who are often called upon to be chief mourners at funerals for their parents.

"While they usually have 30 years or so before they also pass away, they may begin thinking about it as well as their online data and the welfare of their loved ones," the spokeswoman added.

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Tim Hornyak

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