What Were They Thinking?
I guess at some level everyone who commits a crime thinks they are going to get away with it. But what I don’t know is whether they think of the rationalizations before, during or after the deed.
The question is pertinent because of recent news from Tokyo.
As you know, Japan has a large number of centenarians. Not only that, they still respect their elders over there and have something called “Respect for the Elderly Day.”
Ironically, that was the undoing of the plot in question.
The local authorities realized that, according to their records, a certain Sogen Kato was 111 years old, making him the oldest man in the prefecture. They decided to go visit him, but on arriving, were told by his family that he wasn’t receiving visitors.
The reason? Apparently 30 years ago, (he would have been about 80 then) Kato-san announced to his family that he had decided to become a Living Buddha. Accordingly, he was, effective immediately, giving up food, drink and contact with humanity. With that, he went to his room and demanded to never be disturbed.
The family, showing due respect for the wishes of the elderly, complied and left him alone. His wife also shrugged her shoulders and acceded to his demands.
She passed away six years ago, aged 101.
Everything was going along nicely until the authorities became more strident in their demands to see Mr. Kato. The family insisted that as a monk, his wishes for solitude must be respected. Ultimately, the local authorities called the cops who broke into the inner sanctum. There they found Kato-san in “underwear and pyjamas” and in a “mummified condition,” apparently dead for, coincidentally, 30 years.
So as the old ethics question goes, has something wrong been done or has something been done wrong?
If you follow the money, you learn that as “surviving” spouse, Mr. Kato had been collecting his wife’s pension checks since she died six years ago. And as a pensioner, he’s been receiving payments, even though he was technically employed as a Living Buddha. And technically dead.
Over the years, the family collected about NZ$150,000 in payments, which is about $5,000 per year. I don’t know about you, but that seems like chump change to me, considering that this is Tokyo we’re talking about, and especially when you have to put up with a decomposing corpse in the bedroom.
The whole family is in on it. One of the grandchildren is quoted as saying “Grandpa was a very scary man. So we couldn’t open the door. He shut himself in the room without food or water.”
My first mental picture was a little Japanese kid in a sailor suit gazing in fear at the closed door. But then I realized that the grandchild of an 111 year old guy is probably old enough to ask some follow up questions.
Which brings us back to the initial question of excuses. I have a hard time thinking that the family hatched this plot 30 years ago. But then that requires us to believe that they really thought that Kato-san was really meditating on a low cal diet for all these years.
The more I think of it, this is probably the best excuse they could have come up with under the circumstances. As shaky as this one is, it’s a lot better than “We forgot you’re supposed to bury dead people.” Or, “We thought that incense he was burning was pretty strong but didn’t want to disturb him.” Or, “he was pretty quiet after the first year or so, but he told us to never bother him.”
Like a lot of these stories, this one will probably drop out of the news and we’ll never know what really happened. But I’m looking forward to hearing more excuses.
Which one is your favorite?