At some point in our lives, most of us have felt like leaving everything behind and running away. But very few of us actually follow it through. However, a strange phenomenon exists in Japan. In fact, People in Japan pay a lot of money to disappear forever.
For most of us, there are people who keep track of where we are in our lives. When that fails, there are compulsory government records that are used to keep track. As a result, we can hardly vanish into the air whenever we want to and leave everything behind. Neither are we ever able to go so far away that no one can take us back. In Japan, not only is this possible but it also happens.
The Johatsu: Japan’s Disappearing People
The term ‘Johatsu’ is Japanese for ‘evaporated people’. The term is used to describe those who disappear or arrange for their disappearances. They disappear from society without leaving a trace or ever bidding goodbye. In the majority of cases, they are never found. That is they ‘evaporate’.
Not even the people closest to them get to know that they would disappear. Rather since no messages are left behind, eternal misery surrounds the people left behind. They never even get to know if their loved one is even alive.
The Johatsu restarts life in a place where no one can recognize them and usually live similar to ghosts. Annually, more than 10,000 people disappear in this manner. In comparison, Japan’s population is 127 million.
The Reason Behind The Disappearance
Japanese culture is said to have an enormous amount of pressure from society, right from childhood. So much so that men isolate themselves in their room for years on end to escape from the pressure. Many people who work are often overworked to death. The Japanese word ‘Karoshi’ specifically exists to describe such deaths.
For women, domestic abuse is one of the biggest reasons behind this kind of disappearance. It is believed that at least 25% of Japanese women live through domestic abuse. Matters are made worse because the general Japanese public has a tendency to ignore that domestic abuse even exists.
Finally, huge amounts of gambling debts can also be a reason for choosing this path. Suicide is not preferred because it would leave behind even more cleanup charges on top of the existing debts. As such, the people feel that being missing is better than being dead, for the loved ones left behind.
How Do The Disappearances Take Place?
The main reason the disappearances can happen is because of Japan’s enormous steps to protect the privacy of the citizens. As a result, the impenetrable laws make it impossible for authorities to track anyone. Police can only access public records when there is criminal activity involved. Johatsu, however, is usually civil.
There are also whole businesses that facilitate Johatsu. They are called ‘night movers’ or ‘night shifters’. In Japanese, they are called the Yonige-ya. In exchange for money, they help their clients stage such disappearances. The services, however, come with a steep price tag and can range anywhere between $450 and $2600.
The Yonige-ya selects their clients carefully because the movement has to often take place within a few hours. For women, there might even be children involved. Some clients even ask for household appliances to be brought. As a result, when the time comes to move, they are ready to pack everything, even refrigerators. Here is a short documentary on the phenomenon:
Of course, the people who do not have the money for the professionals have guidebooks that list how they can stage their own disappearance.
The Life Afterward
After the disappearance, they usually live out their lives doing menial jobs like dishwashing and keeping a low profile. However, most of them talk about having life-long regret and loneliness. Sometimes the task becomes too difficult and people choose to end their lives.
On the other hand, the families left behind remain confused and grief-struck forever. They try everything they can to find some clues as to where the person went. But they fail and eventually resort to hoping that one day the person will come back.
The decision is not an easy or a simple one. As tough as life may become, disappearing will always affect the people you are close to. But perhaps life can be too difficult at times. The question of whether the Johatsu are extreme cowards or the bravest people for having the courage to leave everything behind can possibly never be answered.
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