Thursday, July 29, 2010

Tokyo's "Oldest Man" Had Been Dead 30 Years

Initially the headline to this Associated Press story HERE caught my eye because I assumed it was about 'typical' bureaucratic incompetence (it's the same worldwide, I thought to myself with a knowing smile).  But like the best of these sorts of stories, it just got better with each sentence.

It turns out that local welfare authorities had been suspicious about 111 year old Sogen Kato for some time but, "his family members repeatedly chased them away, saying Kato was well but didn't want to see anyone... Police, who forced their way into the house Wednesday... said the mummified body believed to be Kato was lying in his bed, wearing underwear and pajamas, covered with a blanket." 

It turns out that this was apparently a case of welfare fraud.  Authorities now believe he died 30 years ago but that his family continued to receive pension payments for him and for his deceased wife for decades afterward.  That's a tough way to get a few extra Yen on the side, though, isn't it? Having to leave the mummified corpse of your dead grandfather in his bed in the next room of your tiny Tokyo apartment for decades.  Especially for the first 6 months or so.

Lastly, I really love the fact that when this scam began 30 years ago Sogen Kato was just another faceless Tokyo octogenarian.  But the family let it go on so long that over time he became, in absentia, the oldest man in Tokyo, apparently bringing him a sort of notoriety. 

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