In rapidly aging Japan, more and more people die a lonely death. Because no relatives can be found to take care of the dead, more and more local governments have to bear the costs of cremation. The storage of the urns is also becoming a problem because nobody picks them up, as the Japanese newspaper "Asahi Shimbun" reported on Wednesday, citing the Ministry of the Interior. To get a more accurate picture of the growing problem, the ministry conducted a survey for the first time. According to this, communities are hoarding the remains of an estimated 60,000 dead - not counting all of the uncollected bones.
"Kodokushi" (Lonely Death) has long been a serious social problem in Japan. The population is shrinking and aging at record speed. Last year, the number of births fell below the 800,000 mark for the first time, while the number of deaths rose to a record high of around 1.6 million. More than a quarter of the population is now older than 65 years. While in earlier times the young took care of the old, the trend today is towards the nuclear family. At the same time, more and more people are living alone as a result of aging and changing lifestyles. Millions of senior citizens are affected by this trend.
According to forecasts, almost one fifth of all Japanese households by 2040 will consist of elderly people living alone. Experts are calling for more help to care for them. Low-income seniors often have problems finding social housing. According to the first survey by the Interior Ministry, almost 106,000 people died between April 2018 and October 2021 without relatives. About half were destitute, which is why the municipalities had to bear the funeral costs. In other cases, the banks refused to pay out the accounts of the deceased.
See the gallery: After two centuries of isolation, Japan opened up to the West in the second half of the 19th century and soon became a popular travel destination. An opulent illustrated book shows photographs that are more than 130 years old.