Katsuya Kodama's wife died two years ago, and the 77-year-old keeps her ashes on a Buddhist altar in their suburban home outside Tokyo.

"I talk to her morning and night, tell her everything," he said. "I sit on the chair she used in the bath while ill. Sitting where she sat makes me feel close to her."

That sense of loss cuts through Sakura, Chiba Prefecture, including the Sennari district where Kodama moved 30 years ago.