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.
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.