Filming Jiko Bukken agent for BBC
"Ghost Agent" in Tokyo
In April, I field-produced this video for BBC and now it has been released.
The video is about one estate agent specialized in “事故物件 Jiko Bukken (=stigmatized house) “ a.k.a “Ghost agent” in Tokyo area. The agent is owned by Tokyo native, super kind man Mr. Okuma, who has faced 4-500 deaths after he launched the business.
What is Jiko Bukken? Why are they so many now?
The company deals with cleaning up, collecting the belongings of the deceased and even renovate the house by himself. The house will be, of course, cheaper than the regular price ranging from 10%-30% off in urban area like Tokyo, and even more in countryside. Younger generation would see this as an advantage and often buy/contract the property even if it’s stigmatized (or might be haunted).
According to Mr. Okuma, there are 100 thousand to 500 thousand Jiko Bukken only in Tokyo.
We Japanese love to talk about ghosts despite we never want to encounter any of them. In Japan, many people believe house will be haunted as our ancient belief after person dies in the property. Interestingly, after purification is done, most people would feel they can live in the properties.
These properties, Jiko Bukken, are increasing as Japan’s population is declining, which is expected to drop from 127million to about 88 million by 2065 and also high aging rate - one-third of Japanese are older than 65 years old now.
I actually wondered whether I took this assignment or not, because I thought that could be disrespectful to the deceased. After negotiating what & where we film with Mr. Okuma, we finally got the go-ahead and it tuned out to be one of the most memorable project I've ever worked for.
How the properties were like
I visited two houses of Kodokushi (Lonely Death) and suicide victim on the day, which are one of the top reasons how the deceased passed away when it comes to Jiko bukken.
According to Mr.Okuma, the deceased is mostly men. After wife passes away, they feel isolated or some of them fall in "self neglect".
Both properties were simple flats where one or two people live. While I was in the properties, I saw some of the deceased belongings and the dead flies which probably came from the dead body, but other than those, they looked totally normal. I could hardly believe that someone actually died here.
I began to wonder whether ghosts really exist or houses are haunted afterwards.
(Though, I never mean to deny our ancient belief)
The front side and back side of life and my hope
During the film, Mr.Okuma told about his job more specifically and how he feels about dealing with actually someone's death, which couldn't be interviewed on the film.
"Collecting deceased's belongings make me feel emotional every time. Every persons have own stories." Mr.Okuma said. Even if she/he spent wealthy-successful life, they pass away lonely or take her/his life in the end.
I felt the front side and back side of life. I understand each lives are not so fair under circumstances, but it sounds too cruel unless someone gives certain cares.
I see there’re many reasons that people pass away, but I guess both deceased on the video came from isolation. It might sound I’m just scratching the surface, but It would be great if you give subtle care for those who are experiencing to live in shadow.
Big thanks to Mr. Okuma who accepted this project and my “ I-want-to-eat-Ramen-for-lunch-in-Tokyo” order. Lastly, I send huge appreciation for amazing producers at BBC!
Watch the video to find out how this colorful agent is like, and who buys/rents Jiko bukken actually.
Hopefully, the video and this article mean something to you. At least, the project meant much to me.