There are Japanese companies that help people disappear

Japan's Evaporated People | Asia Pacific | Al Jazeera

Loss of work failed marriage or debt pushes many Japanese to "evaporate" and start from scratch elsewhere. To do this they use so-called "nightly moving" services.

In Japanese they are known as Tohatsu: the "evaporated people". Tormented by the shame of losing their jobs, a failed marriage, or debts, thousands of citizens of the country of the Rising Sun abandon their identities and decide to disappear forever under a new identity.

These "evaporated" leave and hide their whereabouts, sometimes for years, others for decades, some forever. Historically they did it alone, one day you would wake up and they were gone, but now many resorts to companies that facilitate the process: the so-called "night moves" services, a nod to the secret nature of the process of those who want to become a jouhatsu.

These companies specialize in helping people who want to disappear and discreetly withdraw from their lives, providing them with accommodation and anonymity in places where no one can find them. This is what Sho Hatori, founder of one of these "night moves" firms in the 1990s, tells the BBC when Japan's economic bubble burst.

Initially, Hatori thought the reason for the Japanese to "evaporate" was a financial ruin, but he soon discovered that there were also "social reasons" such as intricate divorce proceedings, the need for privacy, or the desire to start from scratch and remake their lives. Also, the police cannot intervene unless the missing person is involved in a crime or accident.

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"All the family can do is pay a lot to a private detective or just wait. That' sit, " recounts Hatori.

Our protagonist got into the world to do business in this kind of behavior, but there are other entrepreneurs, such as Saita, who decided to enter the "night moves" as a result of being themselves who took the Tohatsu route. Santa, in this case, decided to "evaporate" at the age of 17 to "run away from a physically abusive relationship," and is now dedicated to helping those suffering from the same fate, though not only.

The culture of evaporation
The cases of Tohatsu appeared in the late 1960s, driven by the film A Man Disappears, in which the protagonist quits his job and his fiancée to "evaporate". In these years many cases of young people from rural areas fleeing their hard work in the big cities appeared, according to Hikaru Yamagishi, a student of political science at Yale University.

So do the French Léna Mauger and Stéphane Rempel in their book The Disappeared: Japan's 'Evaporated People'in Stories and Photographs, a work that collects a series of vignettes of people who have left modern society in search of a more reserved life, far from shame.

Japan's Missing People: On the Trail of the Johatsu | Time

Mauger and Rempel met a man who moved the Johatsu to remote towns and cities in the 1990s under the name "night carriers." Their job was to lead people to remote locations at night, most of them collapsed by the economic crisis and who just wanted to escape and start from scratch. "It's amazing, but these evaporations became a business at the time," Mauger to Public Radio International said.

In their book, Mauger and Remail also shed some light on the loved ones of the missing. His relatives would have wished the missing person hadn't felt so embarrassed, because "we just want to hear from him, he doesn't have to come back. If you need money, we'll send it to you, " said the father of a Tohatsu to the authors.

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