[Photo Story] Kodokushi, Lonely Deaths Increasing in Japan

[Photo Story] Kodokushi, Lonely Deaths Increasing in Japan
女子於死後兩週被發現,享年87歲。2013年月攝於日本東京。
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Text and photos by Soichiro Koriyama

“Kodokushi," have been increasing in Japan.

Kodokushi, Japanese for “lonely death," generally means the death of a single due to sudden disease or inability to hire help in their houses, although, still there’s no clear definition.

It is said that the start of the use of the word, “kodokushi," was to report an incident in which a single elderly man was found long after his death in the 1970s, with trend towards nuclear families.

Many corpses of “kodokushi" were found several days to several weeks after their deaths, which meant they were often decayed and treated as unnatural deaths. The accurate figure of the cases have not been recorded.

According to statistics in 2007, ‘"kodokushi"‘ mostly happens in Tokyo, where 4,000 “kodokushi" occurred that year, meaning an average of 11 people per day.

This statistic, however, is old and it is said that currently 10 to 20 die “kodokushi" per day.

80-year-old woman found a week after her death. Tokyo, Japan/ October 2013.

You may imagine that they are lonely for their entire lives, when in fact their relatives live close to them in many cases. Causes of their deaths include myocardial infarction, brain disease, starvation and so on.

Some had cirrhosis of the liver due to alcohol addictions.

In most cases, the corpses are found because of the putrid smell as time passes after the deaths. From this, we can see the changes and lack of communication in Japan. “Kodokushi" is no longer a distinct kind of death, and has rather become a common type of death, like deaths from diseases or accidents.

I wonder why “kodokushi" happens and is increasing in modern times when convenient communication tools, such as the Internet and mobile phones, exist.

Although the number of “kodokushi" is increasing every year, people are not so interested in the numbers and still take it as an uncommon incident. It is hard to prevent deaths, but how is it impossible to find them before their corpses decay?

75-year-old man found three weeks after his death. Tokyo, Japan/ September 2013
51-year-old man found ten days after his death. Chiba, Japan/October 2013
42-year-old woman found a week after her death. Tokyo, Japan/October 2013.
89-year-old woman found a week after her death. Kanagawa, Japan/October 2013
91-year-old woman found six days after her death. Kanagawa, Japan/January 2014.
87-year-old woman found two weeks after her death. Tokyo, Japan/August 2013.
87-year-old woman found two weeks after her death. Tokyo, Japan/August 2013.

I cannot help feeling as if “kodokushi" is a miniature showing the modern Japan going on to an aging society.

Rinse has authorized publication of this article. The original text is published here: Apartments in Tokyo

First Editor: Olivia Yang

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