Japan is an elderly country. Twenty-three percent of its population is 65 or over. By 2050, nearly 40 percent will be. Nothing like these demographics has ever been seen before, here or anywhere. This is well-known and much discussed, usually in terms of the grim implications for an enfeebled economy and an already overwhelmed pension system.

But there is another dimension to it. Japan has grown psychologically old. Old age has reshaped the mental landscape. You see this mirrored in the weekly and monthly magazines. Twenty years ago, even 10, their coverage, broadly speaking, was of politics, economics and sex. Now it’s of politics, economics and death. Shukan Gendai last week tackled the latter issue almost in party mode. Its headline read, “Full of the spirit of death!” — followed by two provocative subheads: “Well, come on, god of death!” and, “We’ll teach you how not to be afraid of death.”

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