Poor Japanese Families are Reviving the Heartbreaking Tradition of ‘Granny Dumping’

Poor Japanese households that can no longer tend to their elders are reviving an ancient practice called “ubasute,” which means “granny dumping.”

In the past, economically-disadvantaged citizens allegedly brought their elders to mountaintops and left them there to fend for themselves and eventually die.

Image: elminium / Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
Image via elminium / Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Legend has it that the Aokigahara Forest, infamous for its reputation as a suicide spot, was one site for ubasute.

Now, the practice makes somewhat of a comeback as seniors are brought to hospitals and charity offices so they can be adopted, Business Insider said. The reason for doing so remains the same, however: poverty.

Social worker Takanori Fujita told the Times of London, “There are a lot of people who have a certain amount of income but who still live in poverty and struggle terribly with relatives who can’t look after themselves. They are reluctant to ask for help because they feel it’s shameful.”

The new ubasute doesn’t look like legend anymore.

In September, Japan’s welfare ministry announced that 65,692 citizens are 100 years of age or older. Of this figure, 57,525 were females and 8,167 were males. The oldest living person is Nabi Tajima, 116, a resident of Kikai, Kagoshima Prefecture. She turns 117 in August.

Concerned over its aging population, the Japanese government began sticking QR codes to old people in December so they can be tracked. The move attempts to address memory problems caused by dementia.

The government also works hard to save the nation from what scientists call a “demographic time bomb.” Researchers from Tohoku University set the country’s doomsday to August 16, 3766, when only a single Japanese person will exist (assuming no other global catastrophe occurs). The term appears to be the end-result of the aging population and falling fertility rates. Initiatives include speed-dating events, fatherhood lessons and shortening labor hours to combat the associated problem of “karoshi” or “death by overwork.”

What do you think about leaving elders on hospice institutions?

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