Increasing numbers of Japan's ageing population are dying alone and often undiscovered for weeks. Paul Chapman reports.
This was the home of man in his eighties who died at his Tokyo apartment alone and undiscovered for a month. His neighbours only found him because of a slight smell bothering the tenant below. Now clearing up what's left of his belongings is down to Hirotsugu Masuda and his team. As Japan's population ages they're dealing with sad scenes like these on a regular basis. SOUNDBITE)(Japanese) HIROTSUGU MASUDA, ESTATE LIQUIDATION CLEAN SERVICE OWNER, SAYING: "This has started to become a bit more acceptable and now that this work is more recognised than before compared to two to three years ago, my work load has increased." Some five million elderly people live alone in Japan. Many lose touch with family, or have none. Looser family ties also play a part in a country where they are traditionally valued. Officials estimate 40, 000 so-called lonely deaths happen in Japan. They say that could rise to 100, 000 in a decade. The landlady of the man who died here says she's horrified by what's happening. (SOUNDBITE)(Japanese) APARTMENT LANDLADY YOSHIE FUKUHARA SAYING: "There are those who die alone even though they have children. I think that's even more shocking and I didn't think it would happen here. But when it did for the first time that' when I first realised what sort of things all this entailed." Those who are unclaimed by relatives are not given a funeral. Their remains are buried in unmarked graves. Masuda and his team have one more task once their cleaning is done. They place incense and flowers where the body was found...and a photo of their latest lonely death case where his head had lain. It's a human touch in a business where dealing with the aftermath and the afterlife has an increasingly sad but profitable future.