Experts estimate about 30,000 people per year are dying alone in Japan and many have bodies discovered weeks later. Yoshinori Ishimi, who runs the Anshin Net service that cleans up afterwards, believes the true figure is “twice or three times that” (60,000 to 90,000)
A combination of uniquely Japanese cultural, social and demographic factors have compounded the problem.
Japan’s social safety net has failed to keep pace – with the burden still on the family to look after the elderly.
There is a rising of single people and the size of the family becoming smaller.
In the past three decades, Japan has seen the share of single-occupant households more than double to 14.5 per cent of the total population, the rise driven mainly by men in their 50s and women in their 80s and older.
In a bid to be polite, elderly Japanese people fear to disturb their neighbors even to ask for help in the most trifling matters, resulting in a lack of interaction and isolation, expert Fujimori said.
Some 15 per cent of elderly Japanese people living alone report having only one conversation a week, compared to five per cent of their peers in Sweden, 6 per cent in the US and 8 per cent in Germany, according to a Japanese government study.
In 2016, there were an estimated 1,296,000 deaths in Japan. There were 981,000 births in 2016. The population fell by 315,000.