Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Daddy is a Mummy

This has to be one of the weirdest news stories I've heard in a while. When Tokyo government officials went to congratulate Tokyo's oldest man on his 111th birthday (I think it was 111th, but that wasn't the focus of the story, bear with me and you'll see why it was irrelevant), his daughter, who was in her 80s herself, refused to admit them, saying that her father didn't want any publicity. I guess that's not so surprising, if I was 111, I might incline to a bit of peace and quiet too. But then the story takes a turn for the distinctly weird and creepy.
The man's grandchildren, who must be in their 50s or 60s, called the City Hall to tell them that their grandfather was, in fact, dead. City Hall officials assumed it must be some kind of administrative error, but, actually, man's death had never been recorded. "How can that be so?" I hear you ask, surely the undertakers would have done something about that. Well, you see, there were never any undertakers, because the man was still sitting in the front room of the house an estimated 30 years after he passed away. Yes, that's right, this man's daughter had been living in her house with her father's corpse for approximately thirty years. He has been dead so long he has become mummified and it's difficult to work out how long he has been dead. How she lived with the smell of rotting flesh is beyond me.
Apparently, the man announced that he wanted to be a "living Buddha" and retreated to his room a few decades ago, and his daughter just left him to get on with it, while still claiming his pension, obviously. Over the course of the years, about 10million yen's worth of pension was collected on the man's behalf, much of which has been withdrawn from his bank account, causing most people to believe this is the most macabre social security swindle in history.
Isn't this just the weirdest story? I mean, if my father announced he wanted to be a living Buddha, I'd be all "OK, I'll come get you when Eastenders starts". I might leave him until the next day, if I was feeling particularly mean, but, eventually, I'd take the budding Buddha a sandwich. I'd say most daughters would.
According to the Daily Yomiuri's editorial yesterday, this case has sparked a discussion about children who rely on their parent's pensions to survive. Apparently, it's a social problem here, especially among women, who have lived at home waiting for Mr Right to come along. The traditional Mr Right would bring with him financial security, so no need for a decent job; Mum and Dad can pay everything until a husband can be found to take over the job. Unless, of course, Mr Right doesn't turn up, and your only option is to live alone with your dead father's corpse, claiming his pension.

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