Man leaves behind ¥21 million after suicide in Japan’s ‘biggest slum’

A man who committed suicide in the rundown Kamagasaki area left behind 20 million yen in his room
A man who committed suicide in the rundown Kamagasaki area left behind 20 million yen in his room (The Tokyo Reporter)

OSAKA (TR) –  A stroll through the Kamagasaki area in Nishinari Ward gives one a sense that time has passed it by. Located just south of JR Shin-Imamiya Station, the rundown district is known for day laborers and homeless men roaming its alleys of flophouses and low-end eateries.

Which makes the discovery last year inside a fourth-floor budget inn all the more strange. On September 18, a man was found hanged inside a room in what has been ruled a suicide by police. There was also something else of note inside: Nearly 21 million yen in cash.

According to the Sankei Shimbun (Feb. 11), his identity is unknown — and government officials are now tasked with determining what to do with the cash.

The discovery of the man’s body, which had decayed considerably, was made after another resident alerted the manager of the inn about a foul smell. The man is believed to have died about one month before.

According to the Nishinari Police Station, the amount of cash in the room totaled exactly 20,954,577 yen. The bills were not new. A check of their serial numbers revealed that they had not been obtained in via criminal activity.

The man, believed in his 40s, had a slight build and stood 168 centimeters tall. He was clothed in brown shorts. Items found in the room included two handbags, a black change purse and various prepaid cards. However, none of the articles has led to his identification.

Japan’s “biggest slum”

Kamagasaki is referred to as the “biggest slum” in Japan. Known by the name “Airin” (loving district) to locals, the area is home to about 22,000 persons, the majority are day laborers (or those formerly employed in that capacity) and welfare recipients. It is regarded as a popular location for the sale of stolen goods and stimulant drugs.

In this environment, a suicide by a person in possession of a large of sum of money raises a number of questions: “What kind of money is it? Why was he living in that kind of accommodation?” an officer from the Nishinari Police Station asks. “So many mysteries.”

“I hardly ever had a conversation with him”

Kamagasaki contains plenty of cheap lodging options. Unlike at a conventional business hotel, guests staying in the area are generally not asked to register their names and addresses. This is one reason why confirming the man’s identity has become difficult.

With rooms at flophouses priced at around 1,000 yen per night, it is common for guests to stay for extended period. The man in question was no exception.

According to the Sankei, the room he rented measures about two tatami mats in area, enough space for a futon to be spread out and a few personal items. “I did not get the feeling that he headed out each day to go to work,” the manager of the inn is quoted. “But I also do not know what kind of life he was leading. I hardly ever had a conversation with him.”

The monthly rent was 24,000 yen, which he always paid on time. The autopsy results revealed the estimated date of death to be August 20, a full month before his body was found. “The discovery [of his body] was delayed due to the rent being paid without delay,” the manager says.

A “deceased traveler”

In November, the Nishinari Ward office mentioned in its kanpo (gazette) that the man had been deemed a “deceased traveler,” which by definition, according to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, is a person who has died without a known name and address and “a claimant for his corpse.” However, if the identity of a deceased traveler becomes known, the property in his possession will be handed over to his family and relatives along with his remains.

In this case, the man’s body was cremated on November 30, as dictated by law. The aforementioned gazette also printed a description of the man and items in his possession in an effort to obtain leads from the public as to his identity. However, the prospects of success appear slim. “It is extremely rare for the identity [of a deceased traveler] to become known after publication in an official gazette,” says a representative of the ministry.

The Kamagasaki area is known for day laborers and homeless men roaming its alleys of flophouses and low-end eateries
The Kamagasaki area is known for day laborers and homeless men roaming its alleys of flophouses and low-end eateries

According to the health ministry, the costs for cremation of a body of a deceased traveler are to be paid with the assets in his possession with anything left over subject to civil law. An heir or claimant will then be sought via a public announcement through a family court, according to the Ministry of Justice. Should there still be no resolution, the funds will wind up in the national treasury.

Even in taking into consideration costs for cremation, there is a significant amount of money at stake. The period for request for an heir through the family court is at a minimum eight months, which means that a large sum could be headed to the national treasury over the summer.

Under renovation

For the inn in Kamagasaki, the room the man rented is not being used; it is under renovation. In order for it to be available to guests again, various repairs are necessary.

“Why did he live here despite having a lot of money?” grumbles the manager. “Hey, while they are at it they can use the money to pay the renovation costs of the room, too.”

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