Sometimes those who have the smallest connections to society become the biggest burdens on it when they die.
● Lonely Death
Dying alone is an often cited fear for people, but how bad is it really? To shed some light Japanese website Nikkan Spa! interviewed a Mr. Takada who works with Mind, a company that specializes in cleaning the homes of the deceased and discretely discarding embarrassing goods without the family’s knowledge.
Mind has been seeing an increase in the number of “lonely deaths” (kodokushi) or people who die alone and are often not discovered until long after passing. According to one study, the number of lonely deaths has tripled in Japan in the past decade.
Takada recalled one lonely death in Kanagawa Prefecture of a 50-year-old man whom we’ll call Joji. With lonely deaths, the deceased were often absorbed in a world of his own, centered on whatever hobby they might have. In this case, Joji was deeply enthusiastic about pornography.
● Six tons
The former employee of a major automaker, Joji lived in a two-bedroom apartment, but piles of magazines poured off countertops and shelves were overflowing with the publications. Elsewhere, clippings of erotic magazines were scattered to suggest Joji made an effort to consolidate his collection. At the time of his death the collection weighed in at six metric tons (13,228 pounds).
One day he had suffered a heart attack while at home and collapsed partially buried under his various clippings until he passed away.
● Consumed by erotic magazines
A few days later, still no knocks on the door came aside from the possible occasional salesperson or NHK collector who assumed they were being avoided. Meanwhile, inside, Joji’s last remaining living cells began to break down and rot, causing his skin to turn darker shades of green and purple and filling the apartment with a terrible odor.
Normally someone would have been concerned and checked in on the apartment by this point, but Joji had very virtually no contact with the outside world, so his disappearance was completely overlooked. Instead, all of Joji’s bodily fluids began to seep down and pool together at the lowest point of gravity in his body. The mixture then began to release a noxious gas that would cause his body to bloat and his eyeballs to pop out.
After a week, Joji’s skin would have weakened and blistered so much that it would hardly be able to contain the fluids and they would begin to seep out into the floor. But Takada explains that in Joji’s case, his pornography collection had a protective effect. The piles of magazines had soaked up his bodily fluids, preventing them from damaging the floor in what would have been an incredibly costly repair job.
On the other hand, this also prevented anyone from discovering Joji earlier. Takada says that these leaking fluids are often how lonely deaths are discovered. He even cited one case where the fluids had dripped onto the downstairs neighbor’s face while they slept.
But this never happened with Joji, so his body continued to break down. His hair and nails fell out and the rest of his flesh liquefied and steadily soaked into his vast collection of erotic photography and drawings.
By the time he was discovered, likely after failing to pay his rent, a great deal of Joji’s flesh would have seeped into his erotic magazines leaving little more than a skeleton behind. Presumably, unless an unlikely cremation was held on a pile of pornography, this means most of Joji’s body would have been unceremoniously thrown out with the rest of his magazine collection for incineration.
● Death is not the end
The moral of this story is to be sure to live life like there is no tomorrow. I don’t mean that in a Mountain Dew commercial roller-blading-on-Machu-Pichu kind of way. Just bear in mind that, for better of worse, someone will have to inherit the life we create for ourselves and leave behind when we die. For every Joji there is always a Takada: someone who must come in and clean up the remains of a solitary lifestyle.