Daibutsu, Kamakura

Daibutsu, Kamakura
Daibutsu in Kamakura, June 2010. There were thousands of school kids visiting that day. It was still great fun.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Sisters found dead in Osaka apartment fell from wealthy family into abject poverty - The Mainichi Daily News

Sad story. Japan is not the country many people in the rest of the world believe where there is no poverty. This is probably more common then we realize.

Sisters found dead in Osaka apartment fell from wealthy family into abject poverty - The Mainichi Daily News:

Sisters found dead in Osaka apartment fell from wealthy family into abject poverty

TOYONAKA, Osaka -- The two women found dead in an apartment here, with no food and only a pittance in cash, are thought to be two sisters who fell from a wealthy family to such abject poverty that one apparently starved to death.

The two are thought to be Kiyomi Okuda, 63, and her sister Kumiko, 61. No food was in the room's refrigerator, and only a meager 90 yen were found in a purse. A bank book in Kumiko's name showed a balance of zero yen since June of last year.

Autopsies showed that the two died one after the other on around Dec. 22 of last year, the older woman from heart disease. The younger woman's cause of death could not be determined, but weighing only 30 kilograms and showing evidence of malnutrition, starvation seems likely.

According to a 67-year-old male relative, the two sisters were single. Their parents were wealthy landowners, but their father died about 20 years ago, and a few years later their mother died as well. Neighbors say that the two sisters worked at jobs including as school office clerks until their late 40s and lived in their parents' house across from the apartment complex, and they were even the apartment complex's owners.

However, their house was later put up for auction, and the two moved into the apartment complex, where many of the rooms were empty.

"Even though they owned land, they may not have had any income. They seemed to have been in debt, and after they could no longer depend on their father's income, things were probably particularly hard," said the male relative.

Around three or four years ago, a former classmate of the younger sister noticed her limping and recommended she go to a hospital, but she said she couldn't afford to go, even though she wasn't well.

Last year in October, the older sister went to a housewife who lived nearby and begged for a loan of 10,000 yen. The housewife says she lent her the money and the older sister thanked her and said she would try to make the most of it.

"I knew that they were very poor, but I never imagined they would die this way," said the housewife.

According to sources from the city of Toyonaka, the sisters told an Osaka District Court official who had told them they had to evict that they "didn't know what to do" about their lives. Electricity and gas to the sisters' apartment was shut off in September of last year. Unable to reach the two women, the court official asked for advice from the city on how to meet with them.

In response, the city suggested going with police and entering the women's apartment, but the city did not provide local welfare workers with information on the women or otherwise take active steps to intervene.

"It is a terrible shame that they did not contact us for help," said a city official.


  1. I have to say that there's so many sad stories in Japan. My wife is always re-telling some horrible story or another that she's picked up off the internet.

    Don't get me wrong, I love Japan, and the good stories outweigh the bad (although here in the west, good tends to be just quirky when it comes to Japan). There are however a lot of horrible things going on.

    The latest spate of pension scams where people have been hiding their mummified relatives in their appartments to collect their pensions has been amazingly sad. Are people that desperate for money? Or does it happen the world over?

  2. I think we will hear more of these stories in the future as Japan ages.

  3. This is sad. It seems they just stopped living.

  4. That is sad news, and on many levels. The one point I'd like to make is, it seems they lacked the necessary skills to survive. Living off their father's income & living with Mum perhaps rendered them defenceless.

    Also, as Japanese families cling together in the current economic situation, I wonder if this won't happen more & more.

    Grim indeed.

  5. My feeling is it probably will happen more often.

  6. Anonymous9:20 PM

    Hi there,

    I've read a number of articles on the Asahi Shimbun lately about this kind of thing. Japan's having to come to grips with a large population of elderly people that are getting left behind and forgotten.

    One article mentioned that in the 60's and 70's a lot of Japanese came to Tokyo and other big cities for work (from the countryside), and stayed, but as they got older they were now too far from relatives to have any source of aid. No one to claim the remains either after they pass away. Those that didn't marry, succeed in their careers, and start a family of their own are the hardest hit of course.

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  9. Yes, I've heard the same stories Doug. It's so unfortunate to hear Japanese society changing in this way.

  10. Indeed, the aging population really doesn't help things. I saw a TV show in Japan about that once and they cited the fact that childcare is so expensive in Japan (cost of living, etc), that many couples can't afford children, or not many.

    Even for me here in the US, it's a hard economic decision whether to have another, or wait, or just stop.

  11. You have one child right? I recommend another. It is awesome to see the siblings together. But it is tough economically for us also. Especially since we really don't want to send our children to public school in Los Angeles.

    Do you use Twitter?