Japan's Lonely Deaths
April 6, 2010 8:31 AM   Subscribe

"In the 1990s, Taichi Yoshida, the owner of a small moving company in Osaka, Japan, began noticing that many of his jobs involved people who had just died. Families of the deceased were either too squeamish to pack up for their dead relatives, or there wasn't any family to call on. So Yoshida started a new business cleaning out the homes of the dead. Then he started noticing something else: thick, dark stains shaped like a human body, the residue of liquids excreted by a decomposing corpse. These, he learned, were kodokushi, or 'lonely deaths.'"
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey (61 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
 
Oh wow. This seems interesting, but I'm sorry, I can't read it. Ending up as a "kodokushi" is probably my most visceral fear, and I wouldn't be surprised if it was most people's.
posted by DecemberBoy at 8:34 AM on April 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


Wow, the social structure in Japan sure has changed radically in the past few decades. I'm not so much afraid of dying alone, as we all ultimately have no choice but to cross that threshold alone, but of living a life where I am not discovered to have died for weeks, months, or years:

Months — even years — can pass before somebody notices a body. On occasion, all that's left are bones.

Now that freaks me out.
posted by LooseFilter at 8:39 AM on April 6, 2010 [3 favorites]


Actually, living a life that is so peaceful as to allow you to go undiscovered for months... not so bad?
posted by HuronBob at 8:51 AM on April 6, 2010 [11 favorites]


The article touches on how so many of us don't see death: specifically in Japan, but it's also true in the US and I think, most of the industrialized world, since we usually die in hospitals or hospice rather than at home. For all that I'm glad we can get medical treatment that may save our lives so we don't just lie in our beds and die, it does lead to a distortion of how we see death and the physical aspects of it.

The kodokushi phenomenon is extremely sad. I think I'm going to go call my mother in a bit. She lives alone and if she died suddenly, I'm not sure how long it would take someone to find her.
posted by immlass at 8:51 AM on April 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


but of living a life where I am not discovered to have died for weeks, months, or years:

Yeah, that's what I mean: that your death would be so inconsequential that no one would even find you until you're bones. And all you have to do for that to happen to you is fuck up in just the right way enough times. Agggh, this is freaking me out.
posted by DecemberBoy at 8:52 AM on April 6, 2010


If people are interested, there's a documentary called "A Certain Kind of Death" on these types of deaths and what happens to them and their estates.
posted by ntartifex at 8:53 AM on April 6, 2010


It is sad, in a way, but perhaps we're projecting our own fears of being alone onto someone. I think I'll probably die alone. Maybe no one will notice. I'm okay with that, though I'm sure alot of people won't be because it seems really sad. But I'd rather die alone than croak at an important event or ruin someone's day.
posted by anniecat at 8:55 AM on April 6, 2010 [4 favorites]


Um. This happened in my block of flats. I came home after a few days away and noticed a strong stench in the stairway, like honeyed manure. I went in and said to my flatmate: 'What does a corpse smell like? Cos I think I smell corpse.' Those were my exact words - I was nervous, sort of giggling hysterically, and I guess I thought I was being paranoid and I would somehow dispel it by making a joke about it. So he went out into the hallway and came back in and agreed it smelled bad.

I said: 'Do you think we ought to call someone? Like, uh, the letting agency?'

And he said: 'I don't know.'

And we just sort of stood there, caught in this weird feedback loop of deferred responsibility, and it's possible we'd still be standing there now if a van hadn't pulled up in the street outside, and we watched through the kitchen window as two guys in white hazmat suits got out and went in through the front door, and we listened to them stomp up the stairs and open a door with a bang. We stood there and watched as slowly they filled the back of this van with curtains, a mattress with a yellow stain, old sheets, a pot plant, battered trainers, a blue holdall, plastic bags full of clothes - they tore the carpets up, for goodness sake.

And I just stood there, watching, thinking good Lord, corpses really do smell as bad and as distinctively as people say.

We found out what had happened a couple of months later. My flatmate signed up with the doctor, and when he gave his address, the guy said: 'Oh... you don't live on the top floor, do you?'

In - what I can only assume was - a massive breach of confidentiality, he explained that he worked as a police doctor, and he'd been called in, and upstairs a guy had basically been dead for five weeks, all summer, alone, in the middle of the floor. He'd only been discovered when the neighbours in the flat below called the agency to complain about the damp patch gradually seeping through their ceiling.
posted by RokkitNite at 8:56 AM on April 6, 2010 [29 favorites]


Reminds me of Kyoshi Kurosawa's Kairo (Pulse)
posted by oraknabo at 8:56 AM on April 6, 2010 [3 favorites]


Topically related previously: Life and Death of An Urban Recluse.

The quote that gets me from this one:
"The majority of lonely deaths are people who are kind of messy," says Yoshida. "It's the person who, when they take something out, they don't put it back; when something breaks, they don't fix it; when a relationship falls apart, they don't repair it."
Attention to you neat freaks out there: this is a potent rhetorical bludgeon when you have arguments when living with those of us who tend to be messy. Do the dishes for once, or you're going to die and rot undiscovered for months!
posted by Drastic at 8:56 AM on April 6, 2010 [8 favorites]


Yeah, that's what I mean: that your death would be so inconsequential that no one would even find you until you're bones. And all you have to do for that to happen to you is fuck up in just the right way enough times. Agggh, this is freaking me out.

I would be more worried about dying from some sort of slow, preventable death. Like falling and breaking your hip in the bathroom, and not being able to crawl to the phone or some other way of contacting someone. Lying there for days knowing that nobody will come and help you would not be a good way to go.
posted by burnmp3s at 8:58 AM on April 6, 2010 [5 favorites]


Agggh, this is freaking me out.

Yes, sorry, we're saying the same thing. And now it's freaking me out, because I live alone. (Though I'm healthy and still fairly young, that fear really is visceral. Damn. Clearly I need to schedule meetings and appointments at least every other day so that someone, somewhere is always expecting me before too long.)

It's fascinating, and I wish the short article went more into it, what this reveals about the Japanese aversion even to acknowledging death, it seems. Like immlass mentions, not just a Japanese phenomenon--I've often wondered if the American Christian primary focus on heaven, and getting there, and how awesome it will be once we're all there, isn't really at its emotional core about avoiding really thinking about death: "yes, we all die, but only for a minute! Then it's all OK and everyone you love will be back together!!"

It's always seemed to me that such focus on the afterlife does little to help anyone prepare for what we will all for sure, definitely go through alone: the experience of actually dying. And it's really a denial of our mortality because of it.
posted by LooseFilter at 9:00 AM on April 6, 2010 [4 favorites]


Oh wow. This seems interesting, but I'm sorry, I can't read it. Ending up as a "kodokushi" is probably my most visceral fear, and I wouldn't be surprised if it was most people's.

I'm more worried about someone having to find my corpse at all. If it were possible to live to old age, know the day that I was going to die and then hike out into the wilderness, quietly vanish and give myself a sky burial I would do it. I'd go fertilize a tree or feed the vultures.
posted by loquacious at 9:02 AM on April 6, 2010 [17 favorites]


Lying there for days knowing that nobody will come and help you would not be a good way to go.

Well, thanks for adding another delicious layer to this particular anxiety cake.
posted by LooseFilter at 9:03 AM on April 6, 2010 [15 favorites]


I would be more worried about dying from some sort of slow, preventable death. Like falling and breaking your hip in the bathroom, and not being able to crawl to the phone or some other way of contacting someone. Lying there for days knowing that nobody will come and help you would not be a good way to go.

This happened, kind of, to my great grandmother, who was in relatively good health, but fell out of bed one night, wasn't found til the next morning by her son, and who pretty much then lost her mental faculties and died as a result of being put in the hospital. She was my closest grandparent (her daughter in law died when I was 6, so really, she was Grandma to me). Dad wouldn't let me visit her at the very end because she'd become so unhinged in the hospital with the drugs and being taken out of the place she'd lived for over 50 years. That was just fucking awful. Dying quickly, even if alone, would be better, by comparison.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 9:06 AM on April 6, 2010


Other than feeling sad if my rotting body stank up the neighborhood, the idea of dying alone doesn't bother me as much as dying alone slowly. I mean, sudden heart attack, bang, ok. No suffering involved except for those who find me. But starving to death or freezing or dehydration because I was injured and could not get help...that's pretty awful.

We laugh at those LifeAlert commericals because we're young and healthy, but there's a reason they sell.

I have a son, so hopefully I'll have someone to check in on me if my husband goes before I do; but then people in his family tend to live to their 90s, not so my own, so it might be moot for me.
posted by emjaybee at 9:07 AM on April 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


DecemberBoy, I was thinking more along the lines of living a life so quietly that no one pays attention to you, a passive disappearance rather than actively distancing yourself from others. Thanks for reminding me to forgive grievances and talk to old friends, even if our last words were less than pleasant. That, and I should try talk to my neighbors, enough to notice when they're on vacation and when they might be dead.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:09 AM on April 6, 2010


Metafilter: Adding another delicious layer to this particular anxiety cake.
posted by zombieflanders at 9:18 AM on April 6, 2010 [5 favorites]


These, he learned, were kodokushi, or 'lonely deaths.'"

You gotta love the Japanese for having poetic names for damn near anything.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:19 AM on April 6, 2010


You gotta love the Japanese for having poetic names for damn near anything.

I think that's just how Japanese works. Pretty much anything translated from it sounds poetic/stoic/serious/etc. Probably even those hyper-futuristic toilets have names that translate to "The fragrance of the first-bloomed cherry blossoms" or something.
posted by DecemberBoy at 9:26 AM on April 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


Does... does anyone else need a hug right now?
posted by Servo5678 at 9:30 AM on April 6, 2010 [10 favorites]


DecemberBoy : Ending up as a "kodokushi" is probably my most visceral fear, and I wouldn't be surprised if it was most people's.

Like most things involving post-death, as it pertains to me, I really don't fear it at all; I'll be dead, what do I care?

As it pertains to those that I love but don't talk to regularly? That's where my fear comes in.
posted by quin at 9:33 AM on April 6, 2010


My ex-bandmate died like this. Didn't find him for two weeks. Then his somewhat estranged family didn't know how to get in touch with his friends at first and his much younger half-sister ended up going into his rental room and cleaning it out after his body had been recovered. I can't imagine the trauma.
posted by mwhybark at 9:53 AM on April 6, 2010


Personally, I aim to avoid a kodokushi when I die. To quote James Nicoll, " I am hoping for "Witnesses reported the sound up to two hundred kilometers away" or "Last body part finally located"".

That said, I wonder how difficult it would be to market to those hoping to avoid an unnoticed death, a device involving a heartbeat sensor and a half-kilo of plastique? OK, OK, I'll settle for an M-80.
posted by happyroach at 9:56 AM on April 6, 2010 [8 favorites]




I don't know.. when you're living alone without expectations of visitors wouldn't you be more likely to be kind of messy?

posted by xorry at 10:06 AM on April 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


The way you framed this post (yes, I know it's the first para of the article) was so compelling I just *had* to click on the article and find out more. Fascinating and tragic.
posted by iamkimiam at 10:07 AM on April 6, 2010


Crap. I was responding to this comment from Drastic:


Topically related previously: Life and Death of An Urban Recluse.

The quote that gets me from this one:
"The majority of lonely deaths are people who are kind of messy," says Yoshida. "It's the person who, when they take something out, they don't put it back; when something breaks, they don't fix it; when a relationship falls apart, they don't repair it."

posted by xorry at 10:07 AM on April 6, 2010


If it were possible to live to old age, know the day that I was going to die and then hike out into the wilderness, quietly vanish and give myself a sky burial I would do it. I'd go fertilize a tree or feed the vultures.

They do this in Japan, too. [Google Images… NSFW]
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 10:11 AM on April 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Reminds me of the first act in this episode of This American Life.
posted by sigmagalator at 10:15 AM on April 6, 2010


Easy. It's a market for domestic-class human bio-signal detectors. In fact the ones from Japan are very well made.
posted by polymodus at 10:19 AM on April 6, 2010


You gotta love the Japanese for having poetic names for damn near anything.

heh, it just means "lonely death": 孤独死 [孤独 kodoku (loneliness, isolation) + 死 shi (death)]. Compound words like this are a pretty common way to name new things in Japanese.
posted by vorfeed at 10:25 AM on April 6, 2010


They do this in Japan, too. [Google Images… NSFW]

So the Aokigahara article says that "ubasute" (taking an elderly relative to a remote location and leaving them there to die) was "practiced into the 19th century" in the forest, but the ubasute article says there was no evidence that the custom of ubasute was ever a widespread practice, and if it was, only in very ancient times. So which one is correct? This is one thing the Wikipedia detractors are right about: for obscure facts like this, there's a lot of conflicting/incorrect information.
posted by DecemberBoy at 10:28 AM on April 6, 2010


死 shi (death)

Why is it, exactly, that the Japanese word for "four" and "death" are the same (supposedly they won't even have rooms numbered 4 at hospitals, etc. because of this)? I've always wondered about that.
posted by DecemberBoy at 10:29 AM on April 6, 2010


This is a really a worldwide phenomenon.
posted by vespabelle at 10:35 AM on April 6, 2010


There's no way I'll end up as a kodokushi when I die. I have dogs!
posted by Vulpyne at 10:44 AM on April 6, 2010 [3 favorites]


I have a hard time settling on my equivalent of getting on an ice floe when I get old enough and can no longer contribute meaningfully. My current temptation is to build a large flower bed, then fill it with thermite, just half an inch thick. Then I could lay down, pour more thermite on myself, with some potassium permanganate across the torso, take a large dose of barbiturates, and balance a bowl of glycerol on my chest. When I die, the bowl ought to tip over shortly, reacting with the potassium permanganate and getting hot enough to ignite the thermite. I might need a tarp or something to make a more effective body layering.

The end result might be a sheet of iron and aluminum oxide alloy over charred out bones, somewhat like Han Solo frozen in carbonite. Gruesome, sure, but I hate the thought of messing up the flooring and being a reason to pull out perfectly good drywall.
posted by adipocere at 10:45 AM on April 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


DecemberBoy, I don't know why but I remember in a Japanese class that they have an alternate word for four, I think it was juu (don't make me look up the hiragana) they use when they don't want that much creepy in their linear sequence of ordinary cardinals.
posted by JHarris at 10:48 AM on April 6, 2010


Personally, I aim to avoid a kodokushi when I die. To quote James Nicoll, " I am hoping for "Witnesses reported the sound up to two hundred kilometers away" or "Last body part finally located"".

Hey, hold my beer and watch this! *FWOOOM*

More seriously... I know funerals are for the living, but I find both cremation and embalming to be very distasteful and non-pragmatic. If I'm dead I'm done with my body. Both options are gross - gross wastes of perfectly good carbon/protein/nutrients. Turn me into fertilizer and turn me into a vegetable garden or something. But maybe you'd want to test me for toxins first just to make sure I'll actually compost. BBQ me, feed me to pigs to make bacon, feed me to dogs, whatever. I'm open to anything besides option A and B. No casket, no urn. Plow me back into the cycle of life. Grow flowers. Grow weed and smoke my precious nutrients.

Barring that, science experiments are totally acceptable, especially if they involve galvanic response or attempts at zombification or cybernetic reanimation. Hell, have sex with my corpse, I don't care. Use me as a bad prank. Take my corpse out for a drink on Halloween, whatever.

Err, some of those statements make it sound like I'm actually concerned about my mortality or permanence - that I want to "live on" as plant or animal. I'm not, really. It just seems like a waste to let organized biomatter be turned to plastic or ash. So, no artificial diamonds made from my ashes, then. Even diamonds are impermanent.

When I was an even more melodramatic kid I used to obsess about my funeral, wondering if anyone would show up. I wanted to be buried intact with the things I loved, Ancient Egyptian style. At the time it was my stuffed puppy, later, my books or my computer. Now I totally don't care. The real beauty of life is the constant flux, impermanence and constant change and renewal.

Yes, I'm a registered organ donor.
posted by loquacious at 10:51 AM on April 6, 2010 [6 favorites]


I don't know why but I remember in a Japanese class that they have an alternate word for four, I think it was juu

ju is ten. yon is the alternate 4.

Lying there for days knowing that nobody will come and help you would not be a good way to go.

Well, thanks for adding another delicious layer to this particular anxiety cake.


Hungry pets.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 10:54 AM on April 6, 2010


Compound words like this are a pretty common way to name new things in Japanese.

Yes, but, can you imagine anything similar being conjured-up in US English? "Lonely Death"? I can't. I think we'd be more apt to come-up with something more cynical like "Well-Aged".
posted by Thorzdad at 11:22 AM on April 6, 2010


I've always hoped that if I died in a situation like this I would get a brief chance to leave an envelope of cash behind as a tip for their troubles.

Ha, me too!

...then I figured the cleanup crew would probably just help themselves to my various portable possessions anyway, so I quit worrying about it.
posted by aramaic at 11:25 AM on April 6, 2010


I've always hoped that if I died in a situation like this I would get a brief chance to leave an envelope of cash behind as a tip for their troubles.

That is totally something Roast Beef would say. In fact, I'm pretty sure he has.
posted by DecemberBoy at 11:37 AM on April 6, 2010


I recently saw this movie in which the protagonist, a girl, kept finding ghosts in rooms marked with red tape: inside these rooms all taht was found was a human shaped black stain (similar to the description form the article) out of which the ghost resurged, did something horrible (not seen), and then the person who had seen the ghost would commit suicide while all alone, leaving a stain behind, and the process would start again. Quite creepy, actually.

This article + that movie = definetly creeped out.

Does anyone know the name of the film? Not so I can re watch it, more so I can make a mental note to avoid it like the plague dying alone.
posted by omegar at 11:40 AM on April 6, 2010


sigmagalator: Reminds me of the first act in this episode of This American Life.

That is the one episode of TAL I've never been able to bring myself to listen to. There's something just unspeakably sad to me about the idea that there are people with so few connections in their lives that no one even notices when they die.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 11:42 AM on April 6, 2010


Death is very lonely,
shall we commemorate a long life?

Die in the afternoon,
but keep the curtains open.

Let the waning sunlight
dapple the silence
posted by kuatto at 11:44 AM on April 6, 2010


omegar - I believe you're thinking of the Japanese film Kairo (which was remade, like so many Japanese and Korean horror films, into the American film Pulse).
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 11:49 AM on April 6, 2010


Close, DecemberBoy:
Journal For 3/17

Talking with Ray today I realized that one can be either Prepared or Unprepared for death. I spent the afternoon centralizing all my financial papers so that I won't be a hassle to the caseworker who closes the books on me. I pinned the file to the wall opposite the front door, roughly at eye level, clearly labeled. On the folder I attached a Post-It of various places I might be found dead (scalded on garage floor due to hot water heater explosion, etc). Todd called, we had a good chat. He wanted to know if...
posted by adipocere at 11:50 AM on April 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Durn Bronzefist - Yes, thank you, that's it, Kairo. I didn't know Hollywood had made a remake; the actual japanese film was pretty good. Oh, well...
posted by omegar at 12:08 PM on April 6, 2010




If it were possible to live to old age, know the day that I was going to die and then hike out into the wilderness, quietly vanish and give myself a sky burial I would do it. I'd go fertilize a tree or feed the vultures.

That's basically what Colin Fletcher said in "The Complete Walker" when on the subject of carrying emergency radios while wilderness backpacking (the exact quote eludes both me and google books)
posted by 445supermag at 12:45 PM on April 6, 2010


Why is it, exactly, that the Japanese word for "four" and "death" are the same (supposedly they won't even have rooms numbered 4 at hospitals, etc. because of this)? I've always wondered about that.

I assume that both were taken from Chinese with tonality stripped (Sì => shi <= Sǐ), causing a collision.
posted by fleacircus at 12:47 PM on April 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


My mom told me of a friend of hers in Japan who was experiencing health problems and who visited a doctor. The friend thought she might be dying. Thing was, the doctor wouldn't tell her if she was, because they don't do that there.

If you've ever seen Dark Victory, there's a whole scene where the patient (Bette Davis) discovers that her file says "prognosis negative."

Imagine being a doctor and flat out lying to a patient to spare them the traumatic news.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:58 PM on April 6, 2010


When I was living alone and was feeling very socially isolated except for my workday, it occurred to me that if I died on a Friday night, I probably wouldn't be discovered before the following Weds at the earliest when my coworkers wondered where the heck I was. Mmmmaybe Tuesday. Probably more like Thursday or Friday.

There's a reason I call my my remaining (step) parent on a near-daily basis. She lives alone, in a somewhat isolated standalone house.

And right now, I'm dealing with clearing out the belongings of the late tenant in my two family house -- he died (in hospice, thank God, as I had honestly worried that he would be a lonely death of some sort) in late Feb. No local family, and in fact no family at all who was willing or able to come up and deal. The only good friend locally is unable to deal for various reasons.

So, I keep sorting thru stuff and packing it into my truck and taking it to charity. Because at least the stuff should go make the world better if possible.
posted by rmd1023 at 1:02 PM on April 6, 2010


Because at least the stuff should go make the world better if possible.

This is a good way to respond, I think. Imagining a succession of grim, lonely demises feels scary and disempowering. Some people enjoy their solitude and feel content within it, for one. I find it hard to feel too much horror about the prospect of a corpse that once gave rise to a sentient 'me' decomposing in a flat (as opposed to in a pine box in the pitch black underground), but after the chap upstairs died, it did make me reflect that, if we'd only been friendlier neighbours, we might have noticed something was wrong a whole lot earlier.

If thinking about this makes you feel depressed and sad, why not have a look at ways you can volunteer to pop round once a week to visit an old person who lives alone, y'know, play cards with them or listen to their stories, help them sort through any mail they've had. This is a very tragic phenomenon, but within your own community, you can be the difference in another person's life*.

*I do not actually do this
posted by RokkitNite at 1:30 PM on April 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


Like so many aspects of life, a lot depends on whether or not the conditions you find yourself in are the ones you desire. Living a miserably loney existence is sad. Living a contented life alone is not. Aside from the extended-death scenario (needing help and not getting it), only the former seems tragic to me.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 1:36 PM on April 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


If anybody is sort of well, touched by this guy's story, be sure to watch the beautiful film Departures, about a laid-off cellist who finds work preparing bodies for burial. Not as boring or morbid as it sounds. The film does a wonderful job portraying the wonder and peace of such work and dealing with its downsides like social shame.

My wife and I lost twin daughters a couple of years ago, and we're always remarking about how much we enjoy trips to the cemetery now. The people working at the cemetery are some of the nicest, most stereotype-busting, Carhartt-wearing, thoughtful people we know. And the administrators even made an exception for us to ride our bikes through the cemetery, which is normally against the rules.

We don't bring up our thoughts about death much with friends or even close family anymore -- though initially supportive, it seems like most of them don't want to hear about death until it smacks them right in the face. When of course it's only a matter of time for ALL of us...no exceptions. Really, it's no wonder horror films are so popular, when people spend so much of their time trying to avoid the subject...
posted by circular at 4:20 PM on April 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think I'll probably die alone. Maybe no one will notice. I'm okay with that

Every creature on this earth dies alone.

I'd like for my carcass to be discovered nude. On a stranger's front lawn.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 8:19 PM on April 6, 2010


Oh, and also this. Saddest song ever:

Eleanor Rigby picks up the rice in the church where a wedding has been
Lives in a dream
Waits at the window, wearing the face that she keeps in a jar by the door
Who is it for?

All the lonely people
Where do they all come from?
All the lonely people
Where do they all belong?

Father Mckenzie writing the words of a sermon that no one will hear
No one comes near
Look at him working, darning his socks in the night when there's nobody there
What does he care?

Eleanor Rigby died in the church and was buried along with her name
Nobody came
Father Mckenzie wiping the dirt from his hands as he walks from the grave
No one was saved
posted by uncanny hengeman at 8:23 PM on April 6, 2010 [3 favorites]


死 = death; 四 = four/4; sound is the same which is why the number 4 has a negative connotation in Japan/China/Taiwan.
posted by gen at 9:38 PM on April 6, 2010


oraknabo, that's exactly the first thing that came to my mind when I saw this story.
posted by dubitable at 8:05 PM on April 7, 2010


Why is it, exactly, that the Japanese word for "four" and "death" are the same (supposedly they won't even have rooms numbered 4 at hospitals, etc. because of this)? I've always wondered about that.

There are about a bazillion words that sounds like "shi" in Japanese, and that doesn't even take into account the words that include the sound in their pronunciation (look at the menu on the left in the link above, ”し” is the character that represents the sound "shi" in hiragana). Well, of course I'm exaggerating, but there are a good amount of these. There's not a ton of sounds in Japanese, comparatively speaking. Don't read too much into this one.
posted by dubitable at 8:15 PM on April 7, 2010


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