When someone dies in solitude, Miyu Kojima will come to clean up their house and rearrange the memorabilia they once had.
Miyu Kojima (currently 26 years old) works for ToDo, the company that specializes in cleaning up homes for people who have just died without relatives, Al Jazeera TV channel said.
Japan is increasingly witnessing many “lonely deaths” also known as kodokushi in Japanese. The reason is that the population of this country is aging and many elderly people live alone.
Miyu is the only woman and also the youngest employee of ToDo.
“I mainly clean apartments, houses where lonely deaths occur and also rearrange their memorabilia,” Miyu told Al Jazeera.
The owners of the houses she cleaned up were often discovered one or two months after their death, with the longest being 8 months. Occasionally, she will also move houses for people who die in hospitals, murder or suicide.
After the bodies were taken away, Miyu and her colleagues cleaned the house and sorted the furniture. They claim to be the sorters of things.
Miyu was very happy and always smiled. She wears black shoes. She entered this profession after her father died suddenly.
“I think I know what these families are going through and I want to help them,” Miyu said.
Miyu started looking for companies specializing in cleaning homes for lonely deaths and eventually chose the “ToDo” company.
She said she came to the company every morning in the morning, received the assignment, and a group of 6 people moved quickly to a place where people died. They usually finish work at 3pm. Each time earn 3,000 – 5,000 USD.
“I do everything from the beginning until the end. I drive the truck, clean up and talk to my family,” Miyu said.
Before Miyu entered a house, she would pray. “The reason I prayed before I entered the house was because I knew it was dead people … and some people might still regret something,” she said. She prayed for them to “rest in heaven”.
Initially Miyu felt this work was very harsh. The scene can be very creepy. Even if the deceased’s body is removed, the hair and liquids that leak from the corpses remain. However, what she found most difficult was to tell her family about her work.
Miyu’s mother and her boyfriend both objected to this work.
“He told me that I could be haunted but I replied that I did nothing bad or wrong, how could I be haunted,” Miyu said. “Now he understands me.”
Miyu had never met any female colleagues in her industry and people were often surprised to see her doing these jobs.
“I think not because of age, but because of my gender,” Miyu speculated.
Summer is often the busiest season when bodies tend to stink at the time of discovery.
“While cleaning, I often think about the people who lived there, how they lived, what they did,” Miyu said.
She said many elderly people like collecting coins, stamps, and shopping bags.
After completing the cleaning work, Miyu’s group members will hold the final ceremony for the deceased, such as painting, burning incense and praying.
Miyu will hand over the memorabilia they categorized to his family. If they do not need them, the ToDo company will take them to a temple for the ceremony and then burn it.
“I feel sad when the family does not want to receive these things because that is what the deceased left,” she said.
According to Miyu, the demand for house cleaning for lonely deaths is increasing. Hideto Kone, vice president of Association of Discipline, said that as of February 2017, there are about 4,000 companies specializing in providing this service in Japan.
Miyu’s work also gave her a deeper insight into the relationship between people.
“I see these people don’t really care about their parents or family and some people don’t even bother looking at their memorabilia,” she said. “They just need to take money.”
For Miyu, kodokushi is not a phenomenon affecting only the elderly.
“Those are things that can happen to you and to me,” she warned.