The scene of the horrific solitary death of an elderly person: “Hundreds of plastic bags containing stools and 20 meters of garbage” seen by a special cleaning company. | FRIDAY DIGITAL

The scene of the horrific solitary death of an elderly person: “Hundreds of plastic bags containing stools and 20 meters of garbage” seen by a special cleaning company.

Nonfiction writer Kota Ishii approaches the reality of a "society of the elderly without relatives.

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Special cleaning site (photo is an image only)

As Japan’s population ages, the number of elderly people living alone is increasing. One of the phenomena that occurs is “solitary death. This is when a person dies alone, unnoticed by anyone.

In recent years, “lonely death insurance” has been gaining popularity in the insurance industry in response to this phenomenon.

Lone death insurance is designed to cover the cost of special cleaning. When a solitary death occurs and the discovery of the body is delayed, the scene is horrific as the body decomposes.

When such a situation occurs, it is necessary to request a special cleaning service from a professional cleaning company, but the cost is expensive, amounting to several hundred thousand yen. For this reason, apartments and condominiums require tenants to purchase a lonely death insurance policy.

In many cases, lone death insurance is bundled with fire insurance and other insurance policies, so many tenants are unaware that they are covered. However, according to the vendor, about half of the apartments in Tokyo where elderly people live alone may have loneliness insurance. Conversely, this may mean that lone deaths are becoming that common.

Special cleaners often see gruesome scenes, but sometimes they also see scenes that they had never imagined. Apart from the cruelty, it is as if the “karma” of human beings is directly manifested.

I would like to introduce some excerpts from the reportage “Mukonenrei senronen” (The Unmarried Elderly) (Kota Ishii, Ushio Press), which describes the loneliness of today’s elderly people.

Lots of unopened food ……

Takayuki Sakamoto, president of I.M.U., runs a special cleaning business based in Hokkaido. He started this company after working as a self-defense official and a life insurance salesman.

This is the story of Mr. Sakamoto’s experience.

One day, an elderly person living alone died in a house. The resident apparently suffered from dementia, and the house was a dump. Therefore, the relatives could not clean up the mess alone, and they requested a cleaning service.

When Mr. Sakamoto visited the house, he found a 20-meter pile of garbage from the entrance to the hallway. There was no place to step, and there were many unopened food items lying around. The bags showed that the house had been trashed for 17 to 18 years.

Cleaning up such a house can be dangerous. Not only are cutters, shards of glass, and the like found in the garbage, but diabetic syringes and other such items may also be lying around. Touching them by mistake can lead to serious injury or infection.

Mr. Sakamoto donned an infection-prevention mask and special gloves that would not allow blades to penetrate, and went to work cleaning up. He cleared away the trash in front of him and moved onward.

As he went deeper into the house, Mr. Sakamoto repeatedly came across a shocking sight.

For example, when I went to the bathroom, the floor was missing and hundreds of plastic bags had been thrown in. When I looked inside the plastic, I found that it contained stool. Perhaps they had not repaired the broken toilet and had thrown away the plastic to do their business.

Or, when I went to the kitchen, I found a 1.5 liter container for barley tea filled with urine. It seems that he used the container as a urine bottle, filled it with urine, and threw it away when full.

Mr. Sakamoto was gloomy and went about his work in an indifferent manner. Soon he came upon a scene that was hard to believe.

Just when he thought he had made good progress, an unknown room suddenly appeared from behind a pile of trash. At the time, we thought it was a four-bedroom apartment, but it was hidden under a pile of trash. But there was another room hidden in the trash pile.

— it was still there. ……

When Mr. Sakamoto opened the door, it appeared to be a child’s room. At the end of the room was a study desk for children, and a bookshelf was lined with children’s books and toys. It looked as if a child had been playing here just a few minutes before.

What in the world was going on?

Why was the children’s room still clean?

After the cleaning was complete, Mr. Sakamoto asked the client about the children’s room. Did the deceased have small children? The answer was, “The deceased used to have a small child.

The deceased lost a small child a long time ago. The children’s room may have been that child’s room.”

The deceased probably could not throw away the belongings of a child who died early. That is why he left the child’s room untouched for so long. Eventually, the deceased suffered from dementia and her life deteriorated, but she did not throw garbage away, only in the children’s room. As a result, more and more trash piled up in the hallway outside, and the children’s room was left clean, buried, and out of sight.

Mr. Sakamoto describes his feelings at the time as follows.

The amount of trash from the house was about 20 tons. Even a large truck couldn’t carry it all away. I saw the children’s rooms, and it was painful to imagine how the residents of this house must have felt living buried under the garbage.

Even in the past, elderly people sometimes suffered from mental illness, but because they had the support of relatives and friends, they did not become a trash house. But now it is different. Without such close relationships, a house becomes a dump the moment the owner becomes mentally ill. In that sense, you could say this is a problem unique to our time.”

What is left behind when a person passes away? What is left behind when a person passes away, including the person’s way of life, sorrows, hopes, and dreams, are scattered about.

In this context, Mr. Sakamoto also talks about sad episodes with “pets” that he comes across during special cleaning. For more details, please refer to Part 2: Special Cleaners Reveal the Unbelievable Scene of “Pets Left Behind Eating the Dead Body…”.

Part 2: Special Cleaners Reveal the Unbelievable Scene of “Pets Left Behind Eating the Bodies of the Dead…”

  • Interview and text Kota Ishii

    Born in Tokyo in 1977. Nonfiction writer. He has reported and written about culture, history, and medicine in Japan and abroad. His books include "Absolute Poverty," "The Body," "The House of 'Demons'," "43 Killing Intent," "Let's Talk about Real Poverty," "Social Map of Disparity and Division," and "Reporto: Who Kills the Japanese Language?

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