With damage to crematoriums and a lack of kerosene limiting the number of cremations in disaster-hit areas, local governments have begun performing burials, a practice not common in this nation.
More than 1,000 bodies had been buried in six municipalities in Miyagi Prefecture as of Sunday, according to data gathered by The Yomiuri Shimbun.
The crematoriums in Ishinomaki can only handle about 20 bodies a day. In the wake of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, therefore, they are accepting only people who died of disease, and are recommending burial for others.
About 500 bodies have been buried in Ishinomaki since March 23.
Elsewhere in the prefecture, 275 bodies have been buried in Higashi-Matsushima, 110 in Yamamotocho, 104 in Wataricho, 56 in Kesennuma and about 50 in Onagawacho.
Minami-Sanrikucho said it would start burying unidentified bodies on Friday.
Although some of the bodies to be buried have not been identified, police will preserve DNA samples and dental impressions from all unidentified bodies to be used in case bereaved families seek help in identifying their loved ones.
"We plan to cremate the buried bodies on the second anniversary of their deaths, and return the remains to the families," a Wataricho official said.
As many people feel uncomfortable with the idea of burial, some quake-affected municipalities have asked for help with cremations.
The Mizue crematorium in Tokyo's Edogawa Ward, operated by the Tokyo metropolitan government, had cremated 89 bodies sent from Natori, Miyagi Prefecture, as of Sunday.
"We want to comfort the souls of the victims before their bodies decompose," said an official of Natori, which shouldered the cost of transporting the bodies to Tokyo.
Yamagata Prefecture and other prefectures adjacent to disaster zones have also accepted bodies for cremation.
The law allows burials only with the permission of the relevant municipal leader. However, local ordinances ban it in many municipalities due to public health concerns.