Lonely Deaths


I was on snapchat, after the horrid update, and I went to the discovery section because it was  too frustrating  to figure out the actual snapchat part. I like to browse through the magazines and journals that discuss everything from beauty tips and lifestyle content to world news. I came across this one post in particular that struck me. The article was titled, “Cleaning up After the Dead.”

Those who know me well  understand why I was  drawn to a title like this. For those who don’t, I have a never ending interest when it comes to dark and unanswered things, such as death. However, this article was not about death. The bigger picture  focused on one of my least favorite topics: relationships.

As the world becomes, debatably, more progressive, relationship status is not as important, especially in Japan where one was supposed to find a spouse at a young age and start a family. Well, the people of Japan, and society internationally, have decided that a relationship is not a priority. People are living longer and accomplishing more due to the advancement of biomedical technologies which has shifted our values. I know I do not want to get married anytime soon; there is too much for me to see and do in the world-alone.

I come from a small town in Maryland where a lot of the girls set out to find a boyfriend in high school, follow him to college, and then get married after graduation. This has happened to a handful of my, high school friends. I am not criticizing them, it is just interesting how societal values can change, but even with international communication, some communities stay the same. Anyways, this is not the case in Japan. More men than women are choosing to stay single for longer or even opt out of marriage and the relationship lifestyle forever.

Source: https://i.ytimg.com/vi/_5aYyl-PG-w/maxresdefault.jpg

This is great, but unfortunately it takes an eerie turn. Men are dying alone and while that is already sad, their bodies are not discovered right away. It can take up to four months to figure out a tenant is dead. If they are living alone, nobody notices their absence until their neighbors  distinguish a foul scent, their mail piles up, or they are behind on rent.

Yes, their bodies do begin to decompose into the floor and maggots find their way into the housing. This happens so often that a new industry has opened in the Japanese economy for crews thats specialize in cleaning up after lonely deaths. Landlords can and often do purchase insurance, lonely death insurance, so they will not have to pay much to have the apartment cleaned for a new tenant.

Shocking, right? I guess it is good for the economy; it is just sad that when an individual chooses themself over others, they suffer a lonely death where their body sits and decomposes until someone else’s life is affected by the death. Basically, the moral of the story is: find a significant other!





2 responses to “Lonely Deaths

  1. I actually came across this article too while surfing Snapchat. It is truly amazing that this tragic way of dying has turn into somewhat of a cultural phenomenon in Japan. The fact that there is an industry dedicated to this “clean up” is somewhat disheartening to me.

    After finishing reading your post, I gathered my thoughts a bit and had primarily one question. You mentioned that the world as a whole is becoming more “progressive.” I think with this idea of progression, one thing I have noticed in America is that we are becoming more open to accepting and dealing with depression / mental illness. I do not know much about Japanese culture, but I am curious in regards to what extent Japanese people are open to talk about depression. To me, these men living alone for all these years signals they have some internal problems. I am not saying Japanese culture doesn’t really care about possible depression and loneliness in these men, but one would like to think these lonely men would be more open to talking to others and not end up dying alone, should they feel that others would listen to them. Do these men feel like they can seek help? The Japanese worked very hard to engineer this new industry of cleaning up these men, but are they working hard to enough to try to prevent these tragic, lonely deaths?

  2. Thanks for writing up a really interesting post! I had heard of similar discussions surrounding Japan’s aging population before and decided to look further into the circumstances surrounding the rise of “lonely deaths” in the country.

    According to a paper I read, Japan ranks highest in the world for life expectancy (79 for men and 86 for women), but has a mandatory retirement age around 60 – 62. Additionally, three-generation households, once an expected norm in Japan, are becoming much less common, meaning that retired elders are more likely to live alone and be isolated from former social networks that were centered around the workplace. (This is further compounded by the low number of nursing homes, and many elders’ aversion to the prospect of living in them.)

    South Korea is also facing a similar demographic transition: an aging population with a low birth rate of only 1.24 births per woman. A large contributing factor to this is staggering gender inequality; women in South Korea earn 65% of what men earn and are expected to spend disproportionately more time raising children than men. Consequently, women are placed in the position of choosing between having children or having a successful career; more and more women are choosing the latter. I am interested to see how the nation addresses these issues, from both a policy and cultural standpoint.



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