Sunday, August 08, 2010

It's Ten O'Clock. Do You Know Where Your Grandparents Are?

When I was a little girl, there were some things that I knew about the Japanese. I knew that they were into cherry blossoms and robots, and that their students worked harder in school than Americans, and did complicated math we had never even heard of, for example.

When I got older, I learned that Japanese Women Don't Get Old or Fat, and that the natural, sea-based, frugal Japanese diet allowed them to have more centenarians than anywhere else on earth, or at least more than most places.

Anyway, as far as I know, the Japanese still like cherry blossoms and technology, the exchange students I see on BART are all skinnier than I, and I'm sure that miso soup is actually very good for you as well as being delicious.

However, it also seems that the number of centenerians in Japan may be, at least in part, due to the apparent tendency of people in Tokyo to lose track of the elderly.

(Cue Ellen deGeneres. "Exercise is good for old people. My grandmother started walking five miles a day when she was seventy. She's eighty-two now, and we don't know where the hell she is.")

It all started with Sogen Kato. Mr. Kato was visited by authorities with birthday wishes on what would have been his 111th, but they uncovered instead a story that seems to be wasted on Japan. William Faulkner could have done it justice. Suffice to say that Mr. Kato has probably been dead for about thirty years, and the family never knocked on his bedroom door because he was cranky about being disturbed.

All right, this could happen to any city where there are crazy eccentric families: any city. The problem is that, apparently, they've also misplaced Tokyo's oldest woman. Fusa Furuya was born 113 years ago, and was supposedly living with her daughter, 79. Daughter says they haven't been close in many years, and she thought Mom was living with her brother.

The address she had for her brother is a vacant lot.

Health Minister Akira Nagatsuma is now on a mission to track down all the other Japanese centenarians, and these two weird and high-profile cases seem to have sparked an awareness in Japanese authorities that it may not be enough to assume that elderly people are being taken care of by their families. "Understanding the whereabouts of the elderly and their situation is a very important problem," Nagatsuma told the press.

The mayor of Mrs. Furuya's supposed home district added: "We would like to confirm the security of the elderly from now on by meeting them face to face."

This seems like a good start.

1 comment:

Friar Yid (not Shlita) said...

Mr. Kato has probably been dead for about thirty years, and the family never knocked on his bedroom door because he was cranky about being disturbed.

I read in the Chron that he said he was locking himself in his room "to become a living Buddha." I know it's traditional in Asian cultures to show respect to your elders, but how no one thought to check on him after, I don't know, weeks 1 through 1500, is beyond me. What did they think he was doing in there?