The business of cleaning up the personal belongings of people how have died is booming, reflecting an increase in the elderly single population. However, some problematic firms threaten the reputation of the industry.
With no official authorization required to start a business of this kind, there are as many as 5,000 firms across the country, including movers, home repair contractors and industrial waste disposal firms.
While the ranks of newcomers continues to swell, the industry has had to face problems caused by some malicious companies, such as hefty fees, theft and illegal dumping of personal mementos.
To address the situation, an association based in Chitose, Hokkaido, established a qualification system in 2011 for professionals in this field. Currently, some 5,500 people in the industry have received the qualification.
Many elderly people have no relatives. The situations of their deaths are different, and companies offering cleanup services receive various types of requests.
“The work we do is similar to the work of moving companies, but there is a difference in terms of the strong feelings held by bereaved families,” says Satoru Takada, 49, senior managing director of the Kawasaki-based company Road.
According to Takada, who qualified as a professional in the memento cleanup business, he and his coworkers sometimes help to convey the personalities of the deceased to their estranged families through left-behind belongings.
“All the homes we visit are different,” Takada said. “I believe our job is to feel what others feel.”