Kodokushi – One of the Saddest Ways to Die
No one wants to die a lonely death; unfortunately, this is happening on a rising scale in Japan.
Death is a phenomenon that makes us contemplate on the purpose of life. Being a ticking time bomb in its own right, death drives us to live a life worth living, so that by the time we die we will have made our mark in this world.But while death can bring with it so much to ponder on, the phenomenon of “kodokushi”or “lonely death” in Japan makes us question where exactly the deceased person erred in life to have died such a tragic death.
Kodokushi(孤独死) or “lonely death”is a Japanese phenomenon in which a person dies alone, and their death usually goes unnoticed over a long period of time. The reasons why kodokushi has begun to prevail can be many, and the increasing occurrences of kodokushi in Japan are alarming.According to the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, there were some 3,700 “unaccompanied deaths” in Japan in 2013. However, other experts estimate the number is nearer 30,000 a year.
The ToDo Company is one of the few companies in Japan that offer to clean the homes where people die lonely deaths, and their bodies are left unattended. Hirotsugu Masuda, who is in his 40s, started ToDo, so named because cleaning such homes was a job someone had “to do”.The work of the company includes cleaning the home, arranging mementos, and talking to the family and loved ones of the deceased.
Miyu Kojima, being in her mid-twenties, is the youngest of the ten members of the ToDo Company. “I mainly clean up these flats, apartments and houses where lonely death had happened and also organize their mementos,” says Miyu, who is in her second year of work with the company.
At the recently-held End-of-Life Industry Exhibition in Tokyo, Miyu showed off some miniature replicas of “death rooms” that she had created, based on sites that she’d helped clean.
— 神庭亮介 (@kamba_ryosuke) August 27, 2017
Cases of Kodokushi act as a window into human relationships, and how ties have been fractured over the years. The death of Haruki Watanabe in Osaka, Japan, was a case in which people found out about his death three months later only when he was contacted by his landlord because of his pending dues. Workers of cleaning companies mention how the families of the deceased often discard the mementos given by the company, and only take any amount of money that may have been left behind.
Kodokushi serves as a reminder of how it is important to look after one another, and have good ties with loved ones. Sometimes the value of a person is only realized once they are gone, so it is more important to value the living instead of pitying the dead.