l’histoire de Sogen Kato

Sogen Kato (né le 22 juillet 1899 et mort en 1978) passait pour être l’homme le plus vieux de Tokyo jusqu’à juillet 2010 quand il a été découvert qu’il était surement mort en 1978 agé de 79 ans et que sa famille n’avait jamais annoncé sa mort dans une tentative de sauvegarder son record de longévité. Ses proches avaient repoussé des tentatives par des responsables officiels de voir Kato en préparation du « jour de respect pour les personnes âgées » qui avait lieu plus tard dans l’année., citant de nombreux prétextes comme dire qu’il était un légume humain ou qu’il devenait un Sokushinbutsu. La cause de la mort n’a pas pu être déterminée l’état de détérioration du corps de Kato ne le permettant pas.

La découverte des restes de Kato a déclenché une recherche d’autres centenaires dont on avait perdu la trace a cause d’une mauvaise gestion des dossiers par les personnes chargées de ce travail.Une étude qui suivit la découverte des restes de Kato révéla que la police ne savait pas si 234,354 personnes au dessus de l’age de 100 ans étaient toujours vivants. Les responsables admirent que la pauvre tenue des dossiers était la cause dans bien des cas de personnes disparues. L’un des membres de la famille de Kato a été reconnu coupable d’allégations de fraude ; d’autres membres de sa famille réclamèrent ¥9,500,000 ($117,939; £72,030) de fons de retraite destinés à Kato.


découverte du corps

Après la traque de la résidence de Adachi, Tokyo où Kato était sensé vivre, les tentatives des responsables de le rencontrer furent repoussées de nombreuses fois par la famille. De nombreuses raisons furent données par ses proches, oncluant qu’il était un « légume humain » et qu’il devenait un Sokushinbutsu, un procédé selon lequel certains bouddhistes ne nourrissent selon un régime spécial consistant en des noix et des graines pendant 1000 jours tout en ayant une activité physique rigoureuse qui leur fait perdre leur masse graisseuse. Ils mangeaient ensuite des écorces et des racines pendant 1000 autres jours et commençaient à boire un thé empoisonné composé a partir de la sève de l’arbre Urushi, utilisé normalement pour laquer des bols. Le procédé était populaire dans le nord du japon.

Finalement, le corps de Kato fut retrouvé par la police et des responsables en juillet 2010 quand ces fameux responsables intendaient d’honnorer son achèvement de longévité le jour de respect pour les personnes agées plus tard dans l’année ont été encore rebuffés et la police est entrée par effraction dans la maison.

Trouvés dans une pièce du premier étage, les restes momifiés de Kato portaient des sous vêtements et un pijama et étaient couverts d’une couverture.

Newspapers that were found in the room dated back three decades to the Shōwa period, suggesting that Kato’s death may have occurred around 1978.[11] An official named Yutaka Muroi said, « His family must have known he has been dead all these years and acted as if nothing happened. It’s so eerie ».[9]

The day after the visit, Kato’s granddaughter told an « acquaintance » that « my grandfather shut himself in a room on the first floor of our home 32 years ago, and we couldn’t open the door from the outside. My mother said, ‘Leave him in there,’ and he was left as he was. I think he’s dead. »[5] One official had reported concerns about Kato’s safety earlier in the year to his ward office.[11] An autopsy failed to determine the cause of Kato’s death.[4][2]

procès pour fraude

Following the discovery of Kato’s body, two of his relatives were arrested in August 2010, and subsequently charged with fraud.[12] Prosecutors alleged that Michiko Kato, 81, Kato’s daughter, and Tokimi Kato, 53, his granddaughter, fraudulently received about ¥9,500,000 ($117,939; £72,030) of pension money.[4][6] In addition, after Kato’s wife died in 2004 at the age of 101, ¥9,450,000 ($117,318; £71,651) from a survivor’s mutual pension was deposited into Kato’s bank account between October 2004 and June 2010. Approximately ¥6,050,000 ($75,108; £45,872) was withdrawn before his body was discovered. Kato was likely paid a senior welfare benefit from the time he turned 70, which the family may also have used to their advantage.[5] Investigators said that the pair defrauded the Japan Mutual Aid Association of Public School Teachers, who transferred the money into Kato’s account.[9]

In November 2010, the Tokyo District Court sentenced Tokimi Kato to a 2½ year sentence for fraud, suspended for four years. Judge Hajime Shimada said, « The defendant committed a malicious crime with the selfish motive of securing revenue for her family. However, she has paid back the pension benefits and expressed remorse for the crime. »[13]

suites de l’affaire

After the discovery of Kato’s mummified corpse, other checks into elderly centenarians across Japan produced reports of missing centenarians and faulty record keeping. When Tokyo officials attempted to find the oldest woman in the city—113-year-old Fusa Furuya—they found her last known address was vacant. Furuya’s granddaughter said she had not seen her grandmother for several years.[14] The revelations about the disappearance of Furuya and the death of Kato prompted a nationwide investigation, which concluded that police did not know if 234,354 people older than 100 were still alive.[15] More than 77,000 of these people, officials said, would have been older than 120 years old if they were still alive. Poor record keeping was blamed for many of the cases,[15] and officials said that many may have died during World War II. One register suggested a man was still alive at age 186.[16]

Following the revelations about Kato and Furuya, analysts investigated why record keeping by Japanese authorities was poor. Many seniors have, it has been reported, moved away from their family homes. Statistics show that divorce is becoming increasingly common among the elderly. Dementia, which afflicts more than two million Japanese, is also a contributing factor. « Many of those gone missing are men who left their hometowns to look for work in Japan’s big cities during the country’s pre-1990s boom years. Many of them worked obsessively long hours and never built a social network in their new homes. Others found less economic success than they’d hoped. Ashamed of that failure, they didn’t feel they could return home, »[15] a Canadian newspaper reported several months after the discovery of Kato’s body.[15]

Japan is the most elderly nation in the world;[17] as of October 2010, 23.1 percent of the population were found to be aged 65 and over, and 11.1 percent were 75 and over.[18] The problem has largely been caused by a very low birthrate; as of 2005, the rate was 1.25 babies for every woman—to keep the population steady the number needed to be 2.1. However, the issue of aging in the country has been worsened by the government’s unwillingness to let immigrants into the country—foreign nationals accounted for only 1.2 percent of the total population as of 2005. A 2006 report by the government indicates that by 2050, ⅓ of the population may be elderly.[19]

The inquiry also noted that many elderly Japanese citizens were dying in solitude. « Die alone and in two months all that is left is the stench, a rotting corpse and maggots, » The Japan Times said in an editorial,[15] one of many comments from the country’s press on the news. An editorial in Asahi Shimbun said that the findings suggested « deeper problems » in the Japanese register system. « The families who are supposed to be closest to these elderly people don’t know where they are and, in many cases, have not even taken the trouble to ask the police to search for them, » read the editorial. « The situation shows the existence of lonely people who have no family to turn to and whose ties with those around them have been severed. »[16]

One Japanese doctor, however, said he was not surprised at the news. Dr. Aiba Miyoji, of the Tokyo Koto Geriatric Medical Centre, said many Japanese seniors were dying alone, ignored by their families. “Some patients come in with their families, but many are alone or come in just with their social workers,” he said. “It happens especially in Tokyo. There are more and more single-person families.” Dr. Miyoji added that a key reason for the statistics was because people in Japan are living longer than ever before. « That achievement is placing new burdens on a society where a declining number of working-age Japanese have to fund rising health-care and pension costs, » The Globe and Mail reported. Dr. Aiba said that because Tokyo was so crowded, families cannot possibly live together any more. “There’s not enough space for families to live together any more,” he said.[15]

A national census in 2005 found that 3.86 million elderly Japanese citizens were living alone, compared with 2.2 million a decade before. 24.4 per cent of men and 9.3 per cent of women over the age of 60 in Japan have no neighbours, friends or relatives on whom they could rely, a more recent study discovered. In 2008, the Associated Press reported that the number of elderly people committing suicide had reached a record high of 9 percent because of health and economic worries.[20] « In what appears to be a collective cry for help, more than 30,000 Japanese seniors are arrested every year for shoplifting. Many of those arrested told police they stole out of feelings of boredom and isolation, rather than any economic necessity, » The Globe and Mail reported after the discovery of Kato’s corpse.[15] Jeff Kingston, the Director of Asian Studies at the Japan Campus of Temple University, said, « It is a humanising phenomenon—the Japanese are traditionally seen as sober, law-abiding people—when they are in fact scamsters like the rest of us. [The story of the missing centenarians] holds up a mirror to society and reflects realities that many in Japan do not want to accept. »[16]


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