Of the many oddities that are culturally specific to Japan — from cat cafés to graveyard eviction notices to the infamous Suicide Forest, where an estimated 100 people per year take their own lives — perhaps none is as little known, and curious, as “the evaporated people.”Some of the evaporated live in squalor in semi-secret slums:
Since the mid-1990s, it’s estimated that at least 100,000 Japanese men and women vanish annually. They are the architects of their own disappearances, banishing themselves over indignities large and small: divorce, debt, job loss, failing an exam. . . .
These lost souls, it turns out, live in lost cities of their own making.But for many Japanese, it seems, squalor is better than facing the shame of failure in their old lives.
The city of Sanya isn’t located on any map. Technically, it doesn’t even exist. It’s a slum within Tokyo, one whose name has been erased by authorities. What work can be found here is run by the yakuza — the Japanese mafia — or employers looking for cheap, off-the-books labor. The evaporated live in tiny, squalid hotel rooms, often without internet or private toilets.
There are experts to help you evaporate:
A shadow economy has emerged to service those who want never to be found — who want to make their disappearances look like abductions, their homes look like they’ve been robbed, no paper trail or financial transactions to track them down.This article mentions families who hire private detectives in usually vain attempts to track down their vanished relatives, but not official action. I wonder if banks ever try to track down the worse debtors, or if they consider evaporating the equivalent of bankruptcy? Do the police track criminals who try to do this?
Nighttime Movers was one such company, started by a man named Shou Hatori. He’d run a legitimate moving service until one night, in a karaoke bar, a woman asked if Hatori could arrange for her to “disappear, along with her furniture. She said she could not stand her husband’s debts, which were ruining her life.”
Hatori charged $3,400 per midnight move. His clientele was vast: from housewives who’d shopped their families into debt to women whose husbands had left them to university students who were sick of doing chores in their dorms.
He refused to give specifics to the authors, but he eventually quit; as a child, Hatori himself had disappeared with his parents from Kyoto, after they found themselves in debt. He believes that his former line of work was a kindness. “People often associate [this] with cowardice,” he says. “But while doing this work, I came to understand it as a beneficial move.”
And isn't the world weird?