The mummified corpse apparently of a man born in 1899 who may have died more than 30 years ago was found in his home in Adachi Ward, Tokyo, after relatives barred repeated attempts to determine if he was still alive, investigative sources said Thursday.
Sogen Kato, who would have been 111 were he alive, remained cloistered in his room after declaring some 30 years ago that he wanted to be “a living Buddha,” the sources quoted relatives as saying.
Police are questioning his family about the circumstances of his death, while continuing to investigate whether they attempted to fraudulently receive roughly ¥9.5 million paid to Kato as a survivor pension after his wife, a former teacher, died six years ago at age 101, the sources said. They added that ¥2.7 million was withdrawn from Kato’s bank account earlier this month.
Investigators suspect Kato’s death was kept secret so relatives could fraudulently access the receive pension money paid to him.
An autopsy Thursday could not pinpoint the cause or time of Kato’s death, but given that no newspapers newer than one dated Nov. 5, 1978, were found in the room and based on the family’s account, Kato most likely died around then, the sources said.
According to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and the police, Kato was born on July 22, 1899. His 81-year-old daughter, her 83-year-old husband and their two children, aged 53 and 49, live in the same house. His wife died in August 2004.
Local officials had repeatedly visited Kato’s home since earlier this year to see if he was still alive, but his family refused to let them in, saying Kato was in Gifu Prefecture, according to officials from the Adachi Ward Office.
When an official from the ward visited the family on June 2 to confirm whether he was alive, the daughter refused the meeting, saying her “father was well but does not want to see anybody.” Adachi Ward consulted with the police.
Police and ward officials visited the household Monday but the family rejected their request to meet Kato again.
But on Wednesday, one of Kato’s grandchildren visited a local police station to say that when relatives tried to check on Kato’s room on March 25, they saw a skull.