Japan’s missing old people, list making, pensions and hard times.

They all come together in a report by the New York Times’ Martin Fackler.

Japan has long boasted of having many of the world’s oldest people — testament, many here say, to a society with a superior diet and a commitment to its elderly that is unrivaled in the West.

That was before the police found the body of a man thought to be one of Japan’s oldest, at 111 years, mummified in his bed, dead for more than three decades. His daughter, now 81, hid his death to continue collecting his monthly pension payments, the police said.

Hence the secret for Japan’s super-aged society: government simply loses track of them, and their relatives keep up the fiction for so long that it becomes, kind of, a “new normal”.

Especially when it comes to collecting from the government, here was one person, aged 81, perhaps eligible to collect for herself and the parent!

It’s like I say to friends: Japan is very good at administering things that it wants to take seriously. But on things it does not (or where it wants to convey a different image), they can be as sloppy as any Third World banana republic. Or as the modern-day Republicans back home.

Akira Nagatsuma, the Labor and Health secretary and someone within the DPJ to take seriously, is on top of the matter. You have to wonder if he saw this as one more headache on top of the pile of work that was dumped on him last September. In a sense, “What next?!”

I like the quote at the end:

“Living until 150 years old is impossible in the natural world,” said Akira Nemoto, director of the elderly services section of the Adachi ward office. “But it is not impossible in the world of Japanese public administration.”