The companies that help people vanish

Each year, some choose to ‘disappear’ and abandon their lives, jobs, homes and families. In Japan, there are companies that can help those looking to escape into thin air.

All over the world, from the US to Germany to the UK, some people decide to disappear from their own lives without a trace – leaving their homes, jobs and families in the middle of the night to start a second life, often without ever looking back.

In Japan, these people are sometimes referred to as “jouhatsu”. That’s the Japanese word for “evaporation”, but it also refers to people who vanish on purpose into thin air, and continue to conceal their whereabouts – potentially for years, even decades.

“I got fed up with human relationships. I took a small suitcase and disappeared,” says 42-year-old Sugimoto, who’s just going by his family name for this story. “I just kind of escaped.” He says that back in his small hometown, everybody knew him because of his family and their prominent local business, which Sugimoto was expected to carry on. But having that role foisted upon him caused him such distress that he abruptly left town forever and told no one where he was going.

From inescapable debt to loveless marriages, the motivations that push jouhatsu to “evaporate” can vary. Regardless of their reasons, they turn to companies that help them through the process. These operations are called “night moving” services, a nod to the secretive nature of becoming a jouhatsu. They help people who want to disappear discreetly remove themselves from their lives, and can provide lodging for them in secret whereabouts.

“Normally, the reason for moving is something positive, like entering university, getting a new job or a marriage. But there’s also sad moving – for example, like dropping out of university, losing a job or escaping from a stalker,” says Sho Hatori, who founded a night-moving company in the 90s when Japan’s economic bubble burst. At first, he thought financial ruin would be the only thing driving people to flee their troubled lives, but he soon found there were “social reasons”, too. “What we did was support people to start a second life,” he says.

Sociologist Hiroki Nakamori has been researching jouhatsu for more than a decade. He says the term ‘jouhatsu’ first started being used to describe people who decided to go missing back in the 60s. Divorce rates were (and still are) very low in Japan, so some people decided it was easier to just up and leave their spouses instead of going through elaborate, formal divorce proceedings.

“In Japan, it’s just easier to evaporate,” says Nakamori. Privacy is fiercely protected: missing people can freely withdraw money from ATMs without being flagged, and their family members can’t access security videos that might have captured their loved one on the run. “Police will not intervene unless there’s another reason – like a crime or an accident. All the family can do is pay a lot for a private detective. Or just wait. That’s all.”

‘I was shocked’

For the loved ones who get left behind, the abandonment – and resultant search for their jouhatsu – can be unbearable.

“I was shocked,” says a woman who’s remained anonymous, and whose 22-year-old son went missing and hasn’t contacted her since. “He failed after quitting his job twice. He must have felt miserable with his failure.” She drove to where he was living, searched the premises and then waited in her car for days to see if he showed up. He never did.

She says the police haven’t been helpful, and says they told her they could only get involved if it was a suspected suicide. But since there was no note, they won’t help.

“I understand there are stalkers – information can be misused. This is a necessary law, perhaps. But criminals, stalkers and parents who cannot search for their own children? All of them are treated the same way due to the protection. What is this?” she says. “With the current law, without money, all I can do is check if [a] dead body is my son – the only thing left for me.”

The disappeared

For the jouhatsu themselves, feelings of sadness and regret stick with many of them long after they leave their lives behind.

“I constantly have a feeling that I’ve done something wrong,” says Sugimoto, the businessman who left his wife and kids in the small town. “I haven’t seen [my children] in a year. I told them I’m on a business trip.” His only regret, he says, was leaving them.

Sugimoto is currently staying in a home tucked away in a residential district of Tokyo. The night-moving company that’s housing him is run by a woman called Saita, who’s also going by her family name only to preserve anonymity. She was a jouhatsu herself, who went missing 17 years ago. She ‘disappeared’ after being in a physically abusive relationship, and says “in a way, I’m a missing person – even now.”

“I have various types of clients,” she continues. “There are people who run away from serious domestic violence or ego and self-interest. I don’t judge. I never say, ‘Your case is not serious enough’. Everybody has individual struggles.”

For people like Sugimoto, her company helped him address those struggles of his own . But even though he managed to disappear, it doesn’t mean that traces of his old life don’t linger. “Only my first son knows the truth. He’s 13 years old,” he says. “The words I can’t forget are, ‘What Dad decided is Dad’s life, and I can’t change it’. It sounds more mature than me, doesn’t it?”

10 best hangover cures I could find

Hangovers are a horrid part of existence.  They make you question your sanity as to why you indulged in that debauchery the night before.  But as social animals many people use booze, beer, liquor or any other type of alcoholic drink to let loose and relieve the stress.

That is the strange part about drinking.  You basically go from sweet ecstasy to the pits of hell in a 12 hour period.  The intermediate part is a deep comatose like sleep.  But when that alarm goes off in the morning the brain and body will let you know you acted very badly the night before.  And you will pay with great suffering.  Especially if you have to get into work. 

Easy tasks become confounding stress filled predicaments.  When you speak to co-workers you call them by the wrong names.  And the constant rush to the water cooler to fill the bottle up, which in turn leads to constant trips to the can.  And your work performance diminishes to that of an intelligent chimp.  The constant self-loathing, mumbling rabid insults about your own stupidity to yourself.

So we conclude that we will never do that again.  Until the emails start that the gang wants to get together to watch a big hockey game. And the sauce will be flowing hard again.

 

Here are some possible cures:

 

  • Sleep. Rest is your best friend at this point to give your body time to recover. It is best to stay in bed so call in to work if you have to, tell them you have the stomach flu. You will sound so horrible on the phone they may believe you (unless they saw you at the bar, not a good idea then).
  • Replenish your body with fruit juice and water.
  • Avoid caffeine. A weak cup of coffee may be okay but a lot of caffeine will continue to dehydrate you, the opposite of what you want right now.
  • Drink orange juice for Vitamin C.
  • Drink a sports drink like Gatorade or Powerade.
  • Eat mineral rich food like pickles or canned fish.
  • In Poland, drinking pickle juice is a common remedy.
  • Drink a Bloody Mary. While the popular phrase “hair of the dog that bit you” may sound logical with a shot of whiskey left in the bottle next to your bed, it’s only temporary. Try a Bloody Mary instead, while your blood is dealing with the new alcohol it is ignoring the old and in the mean time tomato juice and celery are full of vitamins. If you drank the last of the vodka make a Virgin Mary. Another spicy morning after drink option is Hair of the Dog, in which gin and hot sauce are sure to bite your hangover back.
  • Take a shower, switching between cold and hot water.
  • In Ireland it was said that the cure for a hangover is to bury the ailing person up to the neck in moist river sand.

 

TODAY’S BIG QUESTION: IS HALLOWEEN REALLY A HOLIDAY?

While some may question the origins and legitimacy of Halloween, it apparently is one of America’s favorite holidays. In 2019, according to the National Retail Federation’s consumer survey, 172 million Americans plan to participate in the holiday. So where did this tradition come from and why is there such devotion to it?

The holiday is believed to have originated with the celebration of Samhain, a Celtic harvest festival, observed between sunsets on October 31 and November 1. According to the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, Celts began the Halloween tradition of wearing costumes, often animal skin to hide themselves from spirits, and masks to impersonate ancestors who had preceded them to the spirit world.

Revelers went from house to house performing silly acts in exchange for food and drink, possibly an extension of an earlier custom of leaving refreshments outdoors as offerings to supernatural beings. This likely inspired today’s trick-or-treat traditions.

Some believe the day has pagan roots. Christian leaders stepped in to transform pagan holidays, and in the seventh century, Pope Boniface IV decreed November 1 All Saints’ Day, or All Hallows’ Day. In some parts of the world, Christians attend services and visit graves. The celebration of Halloween became more popular with Irish immigration to the U.S. in the 1800s. Anoka, Minnesota, may be home to the United States’ oldest official Halloween celebration. In 1920, the city began staging a parade and bonfire to mark the day.

Still a Halloween skeptic? Consumers are expected to spend $8.8 billion on Halloween. Beyond the billions in candy and decorations, there’s this: 29 million people plan to dress their pets in Halloween costumes.

Not Your Mainstream Beauty Pageant

albinism

In Malawi, contestants at the first Mister and Ms Albinism Beauty Pageant in Lilongwe get ready on Saturday before the start of the show.

LILONGWE, MALAWI – Malawians have crowned a Mr. and Ms. Albinism during the country’s first ever beauty pageant for albinos, held in the capital Lilongwe. The Association of People with Albinism organized the event as part of efforts to destroy myths which have led to attacks on albinos in Malawi and other African countries.

There were cheers and ululations when beauty contestants with albinism strutted their stuff at a first-ever competition in Malawi.

In a country where they face stigma and the threat of attack because of how they look, some 20 contestants demonstrated that albinism can be beautiful.

Patience Phiri was among them.

“I am here because I have ever experienced the threat. Even my real friends I chat with, they have even said I am money. This has really affected my family because they are there, just to protect me,” Phiri said.

People with albinism in Malawi have been attacked because of false beliefs that their body parts, if used in magical potions, can bring good luck and wealth.

More than two dozen have been killed since 2014 and more than 100 are missing.

Twenty-three-year-old Chikondi Kadzanja won the Ms. Albinism Malawi title.

She told VOA that she will use her position to help end the attacks.

albino

Crown winners of 2019 Ms Malawi Albinism -Chikondi Kadzanja (right) and First Princess Hilda Mcheso poses with lead judge Tamara.

“What I am going to do now is firstly to bring awareness to communities, especially the rural communities that hold negative attitudes, myths and misconceptions about persons with albinism,” Kanjadza said.

Twenty-four-year-old Burnet Phunyanya won the Mr. Albinism Malawi title.

He says his task will be to motivate albinos to be self-reliant.

“I am going to stand still and help persons with albinism. First of all making them to trust in themselves, trust their ideas, and believe in themselves,” Phunyanya said.

Pageant organizers plan to hold the event every year.

Fussy Old Bat

Australian woman sues neighbours over barbecue use

A woman in Western Australia has tried to stop her neighbours from using their barbecues by suing them in court.

Perth woman Cilla Carden claimed that their activities – among them barbecuing and smoking -as well as their noisy children, breached residential laws.

She sought legal orders to prevent the alleged nuisances from continuing.

A tribunal, and the state’s highest court, rejected her claims as unreasonable and lacking in evidence.

Her list of demands also included orders for a family living next door, and another neighbour, to reduce their patio lighting, silence their pets and to replace plants in the common garden.

barbi

She alleged that wafting smells of cigarettes and barbecues had caused “undue offence” to her in her home in the Perth suburb of Girrawheen, according to a Supreme Court of Western Australia judgement published in July.

“They’ve put [the barbecue] there so I smell fish – all I can smell is fish,” Ms Carden, who is a vegan, told Nine News on Monday.

“I can’t enjoy my backyard, I can’t go out there,” she said.

‘They are living in their home as a family’

The State Administrative Tribunal of Western Australia rejected her demands in a case hearing in February – including a request for her neighbour’s children to be quiet when playing outside.

“The Tribunal does not accept that [the parents], by allowing their children to play in the backyard… use the patio for small scooters or toys, constitutes reasonably a nuisance,” the tribunal said.

“What they are doing is living in their backyard and their home as a family.”

The tribunal also noted that the same family had already moved their barbecue prior to the hearing in an attempt to appease Ms Carden.

“[They] have not allowed the children out at night, have not used the patio at night, and have not turned on the lights for several months for fear of reprisals from the applicant,” the tribunal said.

Ms Carden challenged the tribunal’s decision in the Supreme Court of Western Australia in March.

In handing down his rejection in July, the judge noted that she had submitted close to 400 pages in her appeal.

“The volume of material that she has produced… suggests that these matters have to an extent become somewhat overwhelming,” Chief Justice Peter Quinlan said.

Ms Carden told Australian media she plans on taking further legal action.