A friend of mine died at the weekend. He was a good, kind man in his forties, far too young to die. But death doesn’t care about age or family or feelings. That’s for those left behind to deal with. Miyu Kojima is 26 years old and lives in Japan. She works for a company that cleans the rooms of houses and apartments where someone has died usually on their own, what the Japanese term kodokushi (孤独死) “lonely deaths.” Such deaths mainly occur among the older generation—bereaved wives or husbands whose partners have long preceded them in death and have continued living out their last years in a fractured, isolated world.
Kojima has been cleaning “death scenes” for four years. She became involved in the work after her father died. She cleans an average of 300 such locations every year. Kojima describes the work as hard, difficult, and often disturbing. She also claims the atmosphere in homes where someone has been murdered or has committed suicide as far more oppressive “(“the air is heavier”).
As part of the grieving process, photographs are taken of the room in which the deceased was found. These are sometimes used to help relatives (or friends) come to terms with the loss of their loved one. However, Kojima feels these images do not always provide the necessary closure. She therefore started making miniature replicas of the death scenes she worked on. Though not trained as an artist, Kojima taught herself the skills necessary to build and sculpt these miniature rooms. Each model takes four weeks to produce.
Part of the reason Kojima makes these miniature death scenes is the deep regret she feels over her father’s death. He had separated from his wife. One day, when her mother came to discuss details of their divorce, she found him lying unconscious in his apartment. He was in a coma. At the hospital, the doctors said to Kojima that her father might hear her if she spoke to him. When she did, tears appeared in his eyes. He died shortly thereafter. Kojima felt regret that she had not been able to have a closer bond with her father. By making her miniature death scenes, Kojima hopes she can help bring those who feel (as she once did) estranged or distant to their families closer together.
More miniature scenes of ‘lonely death,’ after the jump…