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When Death Crosses Your Path (In Japan)

TGI-ECT

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Yes, that is odd to place some of that in parenthesis, but this might also be used for some comparisons and I wouldn't view that as going off-topic. But I am not the boss around here, so that off-topic bit is up to the boss and the supporting team.

I've had an unusual brush with the Mother Nature thing for us human folks that is named 'death' and it wasn't somebody close, but also not somebody too far away, as in just reading about it in the paper.

I have a residence in an unusual place and spend a fair amount of time here and know the others to some degree, but this isn't a kind of 'Really-Get-To-Know-Folks' type of place.

Still, the fella two doors down, yet in an adjacent building, which indicates the strangeness of this place; he seems to have passed on and the truth is the fella just to the west of me was the one who later last night informed me the other fella died. When I got back here last week I thought there was an odd smell in the area, but I didn't nail it down.

Unfortunately, last night that bit of my life from so many years ago came flooding back as that smell of death was all over the place as the law enforcement folks and a whole mess of what must have been emergency medical response personnel opened up the place in question. I had actually forgotten that smell.

I assume there has to be an autopsy to be sure of no foul play, so to speak. The fella seemed mighty healthy, but that can be something of a guessing game, if the person in question is not a relative or close friend, so appearances don't really count, do they?

If myself or the fella next to me are not dragged down to the police station for questioning within the next few days, I guess we can assume no foul play is involved and so why the person who died isn't with us any more will be a mystery because we are not relatives and the police aren't going to give us any information, even if I were to push certain buttons I know I could. Point is, we aren't going to know what happened, unless there is some kind of trouble.

So I am just starting this thread and we'll see which direction this will go and I may ask a favor from some of you, please.

But I am not going to be asking for help for me if there is trouble, as I know that isn't the area a forum/community like this should be pushed into. That is for them law smart folks and I can handle that end of things okay. I know I am not involved in the death, so I'll be okay.

My favor will be of a different nature, if things sort of mellow out in a few days.

I just want to get this thread started, first.

And as I proofread this I see it reads rather strangely, and I am sorry for that. But I do want to get this started now and I can't provide more details yet, or explain what I might ask as a favor. Not yet..
 

nice gaijin

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Not sure we can act as your alibi, @TGI-ECT :unsure: though maybe we can use your posting history to help show when you were tapping at a keyboard, and couldn't have possibly been involved in anyone's untimely demise :LOL:

Sorry to hear about your neighbor, you said he seemed healthy, but what age range was he in? It's not clear what you mean about having residence in an "unusual place" and all that, could mean a lot of things with that.

Although it's your thread and I think it should continue to serve as a platform for updates to your story, as it's posted in Japan Practical, if I may add some rails to this conversation, maybe I can pose some questions that could serve for the greater purpose of discussing death in Japan:
  1. What if any experiences have you had with death in Japan?
  2. What kind of relation did you have to the person who passed?
  3. How was the death handled, by next of kin/officials/professionals? Was there any way about the way it was handled that surprised you or you found interesting?
  4. What kind of rituals did you participate in or witness? How would you characterize them?
  5. If you're not from Japan, how does the attitude around death feel different in Japan than it does in your own culture.
As for myself, I've had little interaction with death here. Of course I've known people who have had close relatives pass away, but I've never been around when this happens, so I've never been a to funeral in Japan myself. Just this past week, friend's uncle's older brother recently passed away, and the next time I saw him I said the expected set phrase for such occasions: 御愁傷様です

Afterwards, I was asking my friend about whether my usage was appropriate, and we had an interesting discussion about whether it's better to use the present tense です or the past tense でした, and while it seems like both are acceptable, he felt like using でした might be a little better as to him it had the connotation of this event being over and not seeming like he wishes for it to repeat.

I remember this movie came out a few years ago, I thought it was really lovely.

As an aside, when I was in Korea my school's vice principal's father's passed away, and we were invited to an event in his honor. It was more of a reception than anything else, and we weren't present for any kind of ritual or service. I wasn't sure how to act; as an American I don't think we're habituated to be very comfortable with death, and treat funerals as somber affairs... they assured me that in their culture death after a long life was not surprising or sad; it was only when someone dies young or before their time that there's cause to mourn in that way. Thinking back to the sinking of the Sewol in 2014 where many young students were killed, the footage of the mourning families brought this back into memory.
 

TGI-ECT

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Firstly, thank you for your thoughts, nice gaijin.

Secondly, I apologize for causing there to be any appearance of a need to use this community of members in any manner of support of any statement I would have had to make to law enforcement folks. I now use "would have had" because the law enforcement folks should have called anyone in for questioning by now, if they saw a need to do so. I also sensed they had made some critical decisions Thursday evening/night. But I felt I should cover in my first post that there could still be a case of my having to let my posts stop for a period of time in case some sort of investigation were to have me brought in to either make a statement or even be accused of some weirdness. It wouldn't be proper for a number of people to make further posts here, if there were some sort of trouble aimed at myself. At this point in time I do not think there is a problem of that sort. I mean, I know absolutely for sure that I didn't have anything to do with that poor fella's situation, but that might not have been any guarantee that I wasn't under some sort of suspicion until I answered any questions any of the law enforcement folks might have had.

As for my referring to this compound sort of place as an unusual place; I am afraid there really isn't any other way to put it in the English language and if we were to switch to Japanese it would be even worse. In addition, I am wanting to be as sure as I can be not to divulge details that would allow a clever fella/gal to figure out where this is.

Let me put it this way; I've been in Asian areas for over 40 years and that includes living in two nations in Asia over 10 years in each and I can't really state I have ever seen a civilian compound quite like this one during any of those 40 plus years. In fact, I was introduced to the owner by a government official. I had passed here a few times and had even met the owner briefly a fair number of years before I was re-introduced by the government fella, but the owner hadn't needed to place much importance upon our first brief encounter.

Your Questions 2, 3, and 4 are very easy to answer as I knew the fellow only from saying hi once in a bit, making brief jokes maybe about weather or some such thing, maybe a few times making sure something in the AO was taken care of and I do not recall ever seeing him having any visitors. I would state the fella was middle-aged, but I sure have no idea how far toward the end of that scale he would have fit. He was darn punctual in the mornings. He didn't mind asserting himself when he needed to. He removed a special path I built because it interfered with him using his motor bike and I didn't argue with him. He was quite resolute in the way he handled that and I thought that was a good human type of behavior. I fixed the problem I was trying to fix in another way and he didn't bother that one again.

Let's see, I know absolutely zero about any other human connected with him. Except for us in this compound that simply said 'Hi' and commented about local issues or the weather and stuff.

Your first question: I am unfortunately properly associated with deaths of all sorts in Japan because I was the district Chaplain here for the VFW for a fair number of years and had to deal with death on many levels too often. That included working with the RBL, by the way. It included retirees, active duty, their Japanese relatives or family members, and both civilian ceremony and U.S. base ceremony. But that is a fair number of years back. I have more or less retired from all VFW activity and now I have my own rather nasty medical troubles and showing up at any VFW/RBL event would just be a problem for the officials on duty at this time. Better for some of us old folks to just stay away. That is especially true if you might have been a district or post officer because then all sorts of special things have to happen and it is a burden on the officers of the day. I remember those troubles, so I stay away.

But the answer is I am unfortunately too familiar with ceremony associated with those that pass on.

What really had my brain surprised Thursday night and when I did that first post above was I didn't know a human could forget the smell of death and I had. That actual smell of death is fortunately not something most folks have to deal with, if that is the right way to write that. Frankly, that one (forgetting that awful smell) that one really nailed me for a bit. I've figured it out since, if you're interested.

As for why I am going to ask for some help, let me do a third post to cover that. This one seems to be rather long.
 

TGI-ECT

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Okey-dokey, let me see if I can properly express my thinking here.

I have this sense that this fella's passing might be completely ignored by all around here, unless some official type response is asked for, like what the owner and his family may need to deal with.

Now there is something bugging me about ignoring a death like has happened here. It just doesn't feel right. And it is true that it is still early and maybe in a few days the owner may do something and my thinking can be shelved. But I am starting to wonder what should be done if I see nothing around here in a few more days.

I am thinking of some sort of simple sort of "Sorry The Fella Passed On" type of pinup around here some place. The problem is I don't want to be known as the author. That's the first problem. Another problem is I would like it to reflect the nature of this compound, in that this is obviously a compound that goes way back, it is owned by a family that has one of those very old family crests/seals and has properties all over this territory and such like that and so I would like whatever "simple" -Sorry He Passed On- thing to lean toward the more traditional end of Japan's tributes to those that die.

And I want to try and hide any possible signature I would leave on the paper by using my own style. Unfortunately, I have a style in language, especially in Japanese, that sticks out like a yellow flag on a race track.

So I was going to ask if anyone here might could offer some ideas as to how to write some sort of proper, yet oldish style "Sorry For His Death" type of piece.

I use the vocabulary "piece" because I am simply going to use the computer to print out something and make a copy and pin it up in some sort of quiet way.

You see, I just do not feel comfortable with a situation that might end up with everyone ignoring that fella's death, except if they are forced to deal with it for some sort of official reason.

He was a resident here. I doubt anyone here knew him very well, except maybe the landlord and his wife. But I think even though we didn't know him so well or hardly at all, we should still make note of his passing.

But I'd kind of like to try and hide as being the one that is doing the "piece". And I'd like to create an older style of "piece" as weird as that may seem.

I'm not so sure I am putting this down properly. I mean, expressing myself properly. This is all a tad weird, isn't it? Sorry everybody.
 

nice gaijin

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Well, you could leave flowers at his door. That's kind of a universal gesture, and in Japan, the white chrysanthemum is the funeral flower but probably over the top; any white flower would suffice. You may want to keep in mind that certain flowers do have certain meanings attached to them, per 花言葉 / The Language of Flowers (flower meanings)

Not sure there's any need for you to write something, and although no one may seem to be talking about his passing that's not to say that it has gone completely unnoticed.
 

Glenski

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A neighbor died. You barely knew him. From what you wrote ("When I got back here last week "), suggests you were not there for a few days, or maybe you just meant you got home after a regular day out.

In any case, I really don't see as you need to do anything. Being a former chaplain might give you some sense of needing to acknowledge this man's death, but that's about all I can figure, and to be honest, I don't even understand why since you barely knew the man. My advice is to make peace with your own deity over this and just carry on with your own life. No note. No flowers. Anything will attract attention, and it sounds as if you very strongly don't want to do that. If you just can't get over this feeling that you have to publicly display some sympathy, talk to the other neighbors about it so that you can do it jointly and properly.

Meanwhile, you wrote "So I am just starting this thread and we'll see which direction this will go and I may ask a favor from some of you, please. " This is what has confused me the most. What do you want people on this forum to do for you? If it was advice on how to write a note, see my advice above.

FWIW, I have attended funerals here for two of my wife's grandparents as well as a pet. What's more, two of my foreign colleagues have passed away while I've been in Japan, and I gave a brief talk for one of them at a remembrance event during a conference.
 

TGI-ECT

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My chaplain's duties in the past are not a factor in this, to be quite frank. I have a long history of being strange on matters such as this. I have this problem with what is viewed as proper ways for humans to interact, especially if they don't know each other.

I had a friend of sorts when I was on active duty many years ago and my friend was a medic at that time, who later went on to get his full certification in medicine and became a civilian doctor in the Midwest; but he once felt that my experience during a natural disaster that I and my flight crew ended up getting caught up in for one full week of some of the worst flying conditions we all had ever faced had caused my attitude about humans to take an odd turn.

You see, I was young, and it hit me how differently humans look upon each other during a disaster. Complete strangers help each other. Complete strangers actually seem to care and actually listen to others. And it goes on.

The truth is, folks, after that I just could never quite figure out why it took a disaster, or bad thing, to cause folks to look upon each other with some consideration beyond the most basic of the norms of the day, for want of any better way to put it.

You folks are giving excellent and proper advice and I appreciate that, but it seems that somehow something is missing and I apologize to the two of you for sort of contradicting my thank you. I mean, that seems to be sort of what I am doing, yes?

I understand the advice both of you gave. I completely understand. But there is somethng about that man passing on and possibly doing so in a kind of human interaction vacuum that has my brain wondering what's up in this little tiny corner of the human experience in this age and on this tiny area of this planet. Humans don't seem to be drawing any closer together with this advent of better tools to communicate with each other.

It seems the better we understand each other the further distance we put between us; even in death.

But I sure don't understand what my problem is. I don't understand why I can't be normal like you folks. Why I can't just turn my head and look skyward and forget.
 

bentenmusume

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Well, 孤独死 in modern Japanese society is definitely something that's discussed as an issue in the news by sociologists, and the like, so it's not as if there aren't people out there who are aware of the situation and trying to make things better (obviously not achieving this with 100% success quite yet).

Honestly, I think this sort of disconnect between neighbors isn't something unique to Japan, but probably common to larger cities all over the world these days. Whereas in closer-knit, rural communities (both in Japan and abroad) you'll find more of a closer connection. It's just kind of the nature of the beast.

Especially nowadays when the Internet and smartphones allow us to connect with friends and family 24/7, many people just aren't interested (or able, in terms of free time) to put the effort into maintaining relationships with people with whom they share nothing in common but physicial proximity. I'm not saying this is a good thing (or a bad thing), but it's just kind of how things are these days (and have been for a while, I'd say).

That said, I don't think there's anything "abnormal" at all about the fact that you can't just let this go. Some people are more sensitive and prone to empathize with others (even complete strangers), and I can certainly understand how the death of a neighbor would leave you feeling philosophical.

Perhaps that's the best course of action: allow yourself to use this as an opportunity to reflect upon on the nature of life and death in the modern world, and try to come to peace with it for yourself. I don't think there would be anything particularly out of line about anonymously leaving flowers, but I'm not sure that sort of tangible gesture is particularly necessary, either. Try to comfort yourself with the fact that you remember this person and are thinking about him in your own way, and trust that there are others out there doing the same.
 
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