Japan’s second-oldest man actually a 30-year-old “partially mummified” dead body

This is already widely reported, but just thought I would share an amazing, terrifying story that happened pretty close to where I live.

Basically, the headline says it all. Back in June, some local workers visited the home one Sogen Kato to present him with an award – at 111 he had become the oldest resident of Adachi-ku, Tokyo, and the second-oldest man in Japan (on paper at least). However, his 80-year-old daughter wouldn’t let them in – “He’s upstairs but doesn’t want any visitors,” she said.

Undeterred, the officials complained to the police, who eventually got to the bottom of things – according to family members, in 1980 the then-octogenarian Kato declared he wanted to become “enlightened through mummification” (pic possibly NSFW – 即身仏), so would they please leave him alone in his room forever with no food or water, thank you very much.

Apparently, this claim might be a ruse – however Kato died, it’s possible they failed to report it in a ploy to keep receiving his pension. If true, that’s an incredibly stupid way of providing for your family after death. If he had bought a life insurance policy the survivors could have paid for a proper funeral (and therefore “proper” Buddha-fication) and still had enough left over to provide. And the biggest upside would be no skeletal corpse in the house for 30 years! I mean, just think of what you could do with that extra bedroom.

14 thoughts on “Japan’s second-oldest man actually a 30-year-old “partially mummified” dead body”

  1. After this incident, Suginami ward decided to check in on their oldest resident, a 113 yr old woman. They can’t find her.

  2. “If this keeps up Japan might have to lower its life expectancy.”

    Just saw that there are more missing centenarians. Maybe Japan’s aging problem isn’t so bad after all…

  3. With this, the 2 children in Osaka, and the 2 reporters, it is looking like “dead body week” on Japanese TV. Makes me nostalgic for “fried Sakai Noriko DJing week” about this time last year.

  4. At least the incident has prompted officials to review their checking procedures. As it turns out, most Tokyo wards actually call on the people in person. Some do not bother, and this is what is likely to change. It’s quite a chore, though, with so many old people being cared for by other old people, or not at all. (The care is available, but not all are aware of it or bother to apply for it.)

  5. Come to think of it, Wataru’s comment about the potential for positive change also applies to the case of the abandoned children that I alluded to above. Much of the coverage that I have seen has not gone in the direction of “youth bashing” (of the young mother), as it often has in the past, but is asking serious questions about why there were a calls to child services from concerned neighbors, but yet nothing serious done. TV has been calling for more rights for investigators to enter homes and the Yomiuri has followed with an editorial today.

    They let the mother’s explanation – ホストクラブで遊ぶのが楽しく育児が面倒 – stand without taking it as an excuse to go off about the “decline” of young people.

    My big complaint about the Japanese media has been the penchant for “Corpse Porn” which tends to drown out serious issue based discussion in many forums. In a week that saw two Japanese reporters lose their lives going for corpse porn money shots, I think the more rounded coverage sparked by the Adachi and Osaka discoveries is worth pointing to as a step in the right direction and hopefully a sign of more to come.

  6. The great search is underway. The Sankei has a running commentary on missing centenarians. Kita Kyushu says it can’t locate around 40% of the 487 it has on record. There are a couple of missing non-Japanese too in Fukuoka and Usuki, probably zainichi. Hokkaido managed to track down two from its missing list.

    People over 100 are have a headline value but you wonder how the records are for everyone, say, over 80.

  7. My father-in-law works for a city hall and paled at the TV suggestion that they track down everybody over 80.

  8. The various wards are checking on their older population now. The news is reporting that already 48 people are “missing”.

  9. You definitely need a death certificate to cremate someone in Japan, right? So does this mean that some of these missing elderly are going to be found buried in gardens and whatnot!?

  10. Well, this one was found right in the house. He probably won’t be the last, although it’s a much harder scam to get away with in Japan, where houses don’t really have basements or sizable attics, than in say the US.

  11. I suspect this is going to get bigger and bigger. It is just easy to fraud the system in Japan. I read reports that the gov’t is first going to check the over 110s. What a joke. This leaves how many people? I reluctantly made the decision to enter the Japanese pension system and this is turning out to be another one the reasons I wish I hadn’t. If the first guy they found, Sogen Kato and if he hadn’t had the notoriety of becoming the “oldest guy in Tokyo” and his family hadn’t left him decomposing in a room for 30 years, I don’t think this large scale fraud would have ever seen the light of day. I want to see a lot of people paying a lot of money back and a lot of “caretakers” incarcerated, I don’t care how old they are.

  12. Remember the Faulkner story, “A Rose for Emily?” He did make this stuff up …

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