The Japanese are renowned the world over for their longevity, but a recent event in Itami, Hyogo Prefecture, casts some doubt upon the validity of such a widely held belief. As a man celebrated for being the oldest male in the city had actually been dead for as long as a decade.
Kyujiro Kanaoka, who lived with his three elderly children (all in their 70’s), had been known as Itami’s oldest man since 1999. Yet an autopsy conducted on Tuesday revealed that he had died from natural causes or illness between five to ten years ago.
Mr. Kanaoka’s body was finally recovered from the family home after a relative alerted the police following a conversation with his son. Local government officials, who had believed the deceased was 107, found his kimono clad body mummified in the house. With the futon the body was resting on surrounded by religious amulets, charms, and notes. It turns out the children also delivered meals to their dead father on a daily basis.
When the city mayor went to visit the house on Respect For The Aged Day last year, he was turned away and told that Mr. Kanaoka was bedridden and unable to meet visitors. An episode that aroused little or no suspicion. But a shocked neigbour did say that, “I thought something was a little strange, because you’d see all these pamphlets talking about him as being the oldest person, but you never actually saw him.”
And now we know why…