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Mysterious disappearances in Japan


Apr 2, 2024

Every year in Japan, thousands of people “evaporate” without a trace, cutting off all social contact. In the port city of Osaka, the Kamagasaki slum, also known as Airin Chiku, is a known hideout for such individuals. Newcomers can rent houses at cheap prices and make a living doing manual labor in this area, which is considered a paradise for “jouhatsu” – those who disappear without a trace.

The term “jouhatsu” emerged in the 1960s when people started to disappear to avoid complicated divorce proceedings. Over time, more and more individuals choose to “evaporate” in places like Kamagasaki, where they can start a new life by changing their names and cutting off all contact with their past lives.

Sociologist Hiroki Nakamori explains that Japanese people value privacy greatly, allowing “jouhatsu” to live hidden away without anyone finding out. When someone goes missing, the police do not provide information unless there is a crime or accident involved. Families are left to hire private detectives or wait for any news.

One such person, Masashi Tanaka, chose to disappear after serving a prison sentence for drug crimes. He went to the Kamagasaki slum to live alone after his mother disowned him. The phenomenon of “jouhatsu” reflects cultural norms, gender roles, and social expectations in Japan.

Many individuals choose to disappear due to debts, escaping from yakuza, or wanting to cut ties with abusive family members. Some escape due to failed exams, job losses, or financial troubles, highlighting the dark side of Japanese work culture notorious for “karoshi” – death from overwork.

Paul O’Shea, a Japan researcher, points out that many Japanese feel discriminated against for not being able to care for themselves. The concept of traditional gender roles in Japan may contribute to this discrimination, pushing individuals to seek “evaporation” measures.

While many “jouhatsu” remain unfound, some cases are eventually discovered by authorities. The search for missing loved ones can be tiring and painful, leaving many families in uncertainty. With the current laws, they can only wait for answers and closure.

By editor

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