Time Magazine article about evaporated people

Last fall I blogged about a book I read about people in Japan who walk out of their lives and never come back. It’s called “evaporating.” It’s very common, said the book, common enough that there are businesses specifically made for these people, to help them flee.

The story did strike me as kind of surreal and TIME Magazine has published an article about it saying the same:

It was captivating. But early inquiries revealed that many in Japan doubted the veracity of Mauger’s reporting. “Most of us who saw [the story] found it unbelievable,” says Charles McJilton, a longtime expatriate resident of Japan… Parts of Mauger’s book are “fantasy at best,” McJilton tells TIME.

Later on:

A cultural prevalence of vanishing…is not reflected in the country’s official statistics. Japan’s National Police Agency registered around 82,000 missing persons in 2015 and noted that some 80,000 had been found by the end of the year. Only 23,000 of them had remained missing for more than a week and about 4,100 of them turned out to be dead. In Britain, which has about half the population of Japan, more than 300,000 calls were made to police in 2015 to report a missing person.

The Missing Persons Search Support Association of Japan (MPS), a non-profit set up to provide support to the families of the evaporated, argues that official numbers reflect under-reporting and are way too low. “The actual, unregistered number is estimated at several times 100,000,” claims the organization’s website.

The aforementioned businesses actually do exist, and are described in the article. TIME interviewed the owner of one such business. She charges

between ¥50,000 ($450) and ¥300,000 ($2,600) depending on the amount of possessions somebody wants to flee with, how far they’re going, and whether the move needs to happen under the cover of darkness. Taking along children, or evading debt collectors, can push prices higher.

Anyway, check out the article. It’s really cool.

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