In pictures: Stairway to Heaven

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A monk prays at the Banshoji templeImage source, Noriko Hayashi/PANOS
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Stairway to Heaven by photographer Noriko Hayashi explores the ways Japan is dealing with a lack of space in which to live and consequently how to deal with the remains of the deceased.
A view over Tokyo with the Hikawa Shrine at the bottom rightImage source, Noriko Hayashi/ Panos
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Tokyo is the world's largest metropolis, with a population of about 36 million people, and land is both expensive and in high demand.
Image source, Noriko Hayashi/PANOS
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At the Aoyama cemetery, grave sites can cost more than $100,000 (£67,000), so people are turning to other solutions for the burial of their loved ones.
Image source, Noriko Hayashi/Panos
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The Shinjuku Rurikoin Byakurengedo is a multi-storey charnel house designed by Kiyoshi Takeyama.
Image source, Noriko Hayashi/PANOS
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The building uses advanced automated warehouse technology, developed by Toyota Industries, to store and allow access to the remains of the deceased.
Image source, Noriko Hayashi/PANOS
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When an electronic ID card is placed next to the tombstone, its door opens automatically and you find yourself facing an ersatz tombstone bearing the name of the deceased person and their photograph. Here, an offering of incense is seen on a gravestone.
Image source, Noriko Hayashi/PANOS
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At the Banshoji temple, electronic cards allow access to a room on the third floor called the Suishoden.
Image source, Noriko Hayashi/PANOS
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In the Suishoden, blue LEDs illuminate 2,000 small glass cinerariums, each containing a box holding the ashes of a deceased person. Each niche is decorated with an image of the Buddha. The electronic identity card used to access the room will ensure the appropriate urn lights up in gold.
Image source, Noriko Hayashi/PANOS
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The project is part of the Future of Cities, a series by Sony's Global Imaging Ambassadors, an exhibition of which can be seen at Somerset House in London from 24 April to 10 May. (All photographs © Noriko Hayashi/ Panos for SGIA)

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