Stand by me

The fear of solitary death and the need for social bonds in contemporary Japan

Authored by: Chikako Ozawa-de Silva

The Routledge Handbook of Death and the Afterlife

Print publication date:  June  2018
Online publication date:  June  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138682160
eBook ISBN: 9781315545349
Adobe ISBN:

10.4324/9781315545349-8

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Abstract

In recent years in Japan, the fear of solitary death has become the equivalent of a social epidemic, and it has done so across age groups, resulting in a new type of group suicide as well as intense media coverage of the increasing number of elderly who are living alone and therefore in danger of dying alone. Contributing factors include a move from traditional collective and family-oriented norms that place the family in charge of the individual’s death and dying (e.g. decisions on medical treatment, funeral arrangements, and so on) to more individualist norms, whereby individuals increasingly wish to assert their own autonomy in choosing what will happen to them, while still wishing to depend upon family support. In a society where traditionally death has been owned by families, and where one could rely on the family to take care of matters upon one’s death and dying, this has led to a pervasive anxiety about what will happen to the increasing number of Japanese who will face death alone.

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