Life First: Japanese Man Helps People Disappear Without Relatives or Police Finding Them
Japanese Naoki Iwabuchi makes a living by helping people disappear without a trace who want to start their lives from scratch. Insider.
In the small town of Chiba, just 50 kilometers from Tokyo, Iwabuchi works in an inconspicuous office. Dressed in a formal black suit, he speaks in a low, measured voice, describing in detail how he does "yonigeya" or "night travel", which essentially involves helping people disappear.
Around 2021 people went missing in Japan in 80, according to Statista. According to the South China Morning Post documentary, many of these "johatsu-sha," or "evaporated people," chose to disappear due to debt, escape domestic violence, or simply start over elsewhere.
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Iwabuchi is one of many who helps people, especially abused women and victims of persecution, disappear from society and go to safety, according to an SCMP documentary released March 19.
But it is a job full of risk and danger. He always carries around a discreet black "self-defense briefcase" that opens into a shield with a layer of armor inside. He also travels with a retractable baton-like device that he says he uses for defense.
"Night moves" are dangerous and there are always problems. Every day,” Iwabuchi told SCMP, adding that he always assumes “the worst” will happen.
He started his business 16 years ago when he learned that there was an increase in the number of women facing domestic violence who "just couldn't run away." He decided to intervene and help them disappear, he told the SCMP.
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According to SCMP, about 90% of Iwabuchi's clients are women and 10% are men. And now the number of people seeking to disappear is three times what it was before the COVID-19 pandemic, he added.
The Los Angeles Times reported in 2003 that yonigei services can cost anywhere from $2000 to $20 per job, depending on the risk and complexity. In some cases, people assisting in the escape may need to pose as window cleaners or tatami mat vendors in order to remain undetected.
According to a 2020 BBC report, once they have "evaporated", it is easy for these people to remain anonymous and hide in plain sight in Japan.
Sociologist Hiroki Nakamori said that because privacy is highly valued in Japan, missing people can withdraw money from ATMs without being detected.
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“The police will not intervene unless there is another reason – a crime or an accident. All a family can do is pay a lot to a private detective. Or just wait. That's it," Nakamori said.
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