One missing Japanese centenarian located

In the latest news on the Great Search For The Japanese Centenarians, an alert blog reader sent this in: one of them has been found inside her 64-year-old son’s backpack. He said she died in 2001 and he couldn’t afford a funeral, so he just kept her in there. Methinks it must have been either a very large backpack (like a frame one) or a very small woman. But Japanese people tend to be small, don’t they?

Surely Japan has some mechanism for burying poor people whose relatives can’t afford it? I’m just sayin’.

14 thoughts on “One missing Japanese centenarian located

  1. Princess Shantae August 21, 2010 / 12:18 am

    In his backpack? Wow. Yeah, Japanese people are usualy pretty short, and old people are also shorter as they get older, but still.

  2. Holly P. August 21, 2010 / 12:31 am

    The article says he broke up the bones, so, depending on how fragile her bones were, I could see them fitting in a back pack.

    Gruesome. If I couldn’t afford a funeral for my mum, I can honestly say this would not be the solution to come to my mind.

    • Meaghan August 21, 2010 / 12:48 am

      It used to be that people were buried in a family plot on their own family’s land, but these days most people don’t own enough land or keep it long enough to make this work, and it’s probably illegal in a lot of jurisdictions. In some places it’s not even legal to scatter cremated remains.

      Fun fact: Roger Williams, the guy who founded Rhode Island, was buried on his family’s land. A year or so later, they were digging a grave next to his for another relative when the shovel accidentally busted a hole in Roger’s coffin lid. They decided to just leave it like that. A young apple tree growing nearby wound up extending its roots into Roger’s coffin and wrapping itself around the body. Centuries later, they decided to dig up Roger and re-bury him somewhere else, but there was nothing left in the coffin except a Roger-shaped root. The apple tree had absorbed him entirely. The root apparently looked astonishingly human.

      When I read this story (in a very interesting book called After the Funeral: Posthumous Adventures of Famous Corpses), I was skeptical and called my father, a botanist, to find out if a tree could really absorb a human body. He confirmed that it could.

  3. Princess Shantae August 21, 2010 / 1:10 am

    Japan is running out of space to bury people in and they are now trying to encourage people to cremate their dead. So much of Japan is city or town land, there’s hardly any open space left.
    Besides just being creepy, how did these people who kept their dead parents in the house for so long stand the smell? They must have not been very neat and clean to start with or they couldn’t stand it. Yuck. I mean I don’t like to fry stuff on the stove inside b/c the smell hangs around for so long, I usualy fry things on the griddle on the grill outside. And those are good food smells, not a dead boyd.

    • Meaghan August 21, 2010 / 1:18 am

      Rotting flesh, especially rotting human flesh, is said to be one of the most repulsive smells in the world to us. With good reason; it’s not healthy to be around dead bodies. But there must be ways you can deal with the smell. I bet mummified remains don’t smell too bad.

      I read a book called The Mummy at the Dining Room Table about unusual cases in psychotherapy that talked about one family that kept their dead mother in the house for years. It wasn’t because they couldn’t afford to bury her or wanted to conceal her death; they simply couldn’t bear to part with her.

      Juan Peron, the now-deceased dictator of Argentina, paid something like $100,000 to have his wife Evita’s body embalmed in such a way that it would never decay. It’s basically like plastic now. He kept it around the house like a decorative statue for years, even after he remarried. THAT’S creepy. If I were his second wife I think I would be like, “Yeah, either Evita’s body goes or I do.”

  4. Sara August 21, 2010 / 12:43 pm

    My god, that root-man story and Plastic Evita are creepy. You read some strange books, Meagan. The Evita one reminded me of the episode of Family Guy where Brian (the dog)’s first owners revealed that they’d had his mother stuffed and used her as a table, leading to Stewie’s line: “I never knew Biscuit as a dog… but I did know her as a table. She was a very good table.” On a more serious note, I read a story in the newspaper a couple months ago about an elderly woman who dug up her husband and her twin sister and kept their bodies in her house because she was lonely and had no one left to talk to. It was just sad. I can’t imagine being that desperate for company.

    • Sara August 21, 2010 / 12:44 pm

      Darn it, I forgot an h. *Meaghan. Sorry!

  5. Princess Shantae August 21, 2010 / 1:07 pm

    I read about that lady with her husband and her twin. The sad thing was she sounded perfectly sane and not even all that pittiful. And people must of thought enough of her if they would help her dig up the bodies and not rat her out. She said she sprayed perfume around to try and keep the smell down. Maybe the Japanese people did that too. Thats like those nasty people that don’t shower enough but load on the perfume and think it covers the stink. The trouble with a mummy is it doesn’t turn to a mummy right away so until it does there’s got to be some smell.

  6. marycarney August 21, 2010 / 4:17 pm

    My (admittedly whack job) sister kept her late husband’s ashes in the hall closet until finally a boyfriend was sufficiently creeped out to pay to have them buried. I felt bad for her then preschool and grade school-aged kids, having their Dad in the closet.

    • Meaghan August 21, 2010 / 6:09 pm

      These days you can have cremains made into a “diamond” and wear them as jewelry. Reminds me of back in Victorian times when people used to wear lockets with a dead loved one’s hair inside.

  7. marycarney August 21, 2010 / 9:18 pm

    I want someone to sneak my remains into Wrigley field, and scatter them over the ivy in left field.

    • Meaghan August 21, 2010 / 11:47 pm

      I read a young adult novel where that actually happened.

  8. Princess Shantae August 23, 2010 / 6:16 pm

    I once read about an Australian lady who’s husband died in a car crash. She had his ashes sewed into her breast implants so he would always be close to her. My first thought was, what’s she going to say to her next boy friend? “Oh, shake hands with my ex husband!” lol

  9. YA October 9, 2010 / 8:55 am

    Ash from human remains takes very little space. It fits into a box of Pringles, to give you an idea. We humans are mostly water, see. )

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