Apartments in Tokyo - PhMuseum

Apartments in Tokyo

Soichiro Koriyama

Kodokushi - lonely death -

People dying ''kodokushi,'' have been increasing in Japan.

Kodokushi, in Japanese, ''lonely death'', generally means that singles' death of sudden disease or inability to ask help, in their houses, although, still there's no clear definition.

It is said that beginning of use the word, ''kodokushi,''was to report an incident that single elderly man was found long time after his death in 1070s, with trend toward nuclear families.

Many corpses of kodokushi were found from several days to several weeks after their deaths, which meant they were decayed often, and treated as unnatural deaths. The accurate figures of the cases are hardly captured. According to some statistics in 2007, kodokushi mostly happens in Tokyo, where 4,000 kodokushi occurred that year, meaning the average per one day is 11 people.This statistics, however, is so old and it is said that from 10 to 20 died kodokushi per one day now. You may imagine that they are totally lonely for all their lives, although, their relatives live close to them in many cases and the deeds are various kinds of people, aged from 20s to 80s.

Their causes of deaths are myocardial infarction,brain disease, starvation from poor lives and so on. Some had cirrhosis of the liver by an addiction to alcohol from isolation and emptiness,and couldn't ask help and died. In most of cases the corpses are found due to putrid smell as time passes after their deaths. Thought of that, we can see changes and lack of communication in Japan. Kodokushi is no more special death, rather, has been becoming one of ways of death, like deaths from disease or accident. I wonder why kodokushi happens and is increasing in modern times where various objects and communication tools represented by internet and mobile phones. Although the number of kodokushi is increasing every year, people are not so interested in it and while they see it as special incident. It is tough to stop deaths themselves of people living alone, but can't it be possible to find them before their corpses decayed?

I cannot help feeling as if kodokushi is miniature showing modern Japan, going on an aging society.

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