August 16, 2010
How to live long and prosper
Don't tell anybody you're dead.
I didn't mean you living long and prospering. But your relatives will appreciate the sacrifice on their behalf. This seemed to be what Sogen Kato's family was thinking when he died in 1978. His daughter and son-in-law (now 81 and 83) simply shut the door to his room and never opened it again.
Maybe they were trying to save on funeral expenses (as big a racket in Japan as in the U.S.). And being in a super economizing mode, they continued to live in the same house!
And use his pension as a piggy bank. As they say, if it didn't really happen, people would think you made it up. After repeated attempts to contact him, police were tipped off by a grandchild and found "the mummified corpse of a man, allegedly a shut-in, who would have been 111 years old if still alive."
This set off a nation-wide search, resulting so far in over 100 missing-persons cases for people over 100. Not missing as in they wandered off somewhere, but missing as in there's no evidence they still exist anywhere. In one case, this bizarrely resulted in the opposite situation as the above:
Fusa Furuya is 113 years old and Tokyo's oldest resident. But even though her domicile was transferred to Suginami Ward in 1986, no one clearly recollects when she was last seen, although her daughter has continued paying medical care premiums on her behalf.
A few years ago, the Japanese government lost millions of pension records, again, as in nobody can remember where they put them. The primitive paper reports the U.S. Social Security Administration sends me every year are probably one of the better wastes of taxpayer money. I should save them.
Though if the government had to guestimate my earnings based on medium incomes for my bracket (what they're resorting to in Japan), I'd probably come out ahead.