The culture of shame in Japan is causing a rise in the number of “lonely deaths,” where dead bodies are left undiscovered for weeks or months, according to BBC News.Most recently, a elderly couple and their middle-aged son were found dead of starvation in their apartment, with no electricity or gas and no food in the kitchen.
According to a local newspaper, they had asked a neighbour for help, but the neighbour refused them and suggested they contact welfare authorities, BBC reported.
It seems that rather suffer the shame of asking for government assistance, the family wasted away and died unnoticed until the building’s management company went looking for them.
The Japanese concept of hajj (shame) continues to drive people’s actions, much like guilt does in Western cultures. It’s the same form of social control that drives Japanese CEOs and prime ministers to resign quickly when faced with a possible scandal or failing.
But the consequences are much deadlier when the elderly, poverty-stricken residents of the world’s third richest country are left without a face-saving option.
Lonely deaths, known as kudokushi, are on the rise throughout Japan. Strangely, this fate even befell one of the nation’s more notable citizens: in 2010, Japan’s oldest man was discovered to have died 30 years earlier, according to BBC. Nobody had thought to check on that before then, apparently. A hunt for the country’s elderly ensued.
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