Japanese man hoarded so much rubbish that it spilled out into the street – he’s now being forced to clean it up and move out
In Japan, the phenomenon of gomi yashiki – literally ‘rubbish house’ – has become more common due to social isolation and mental illness
After a 10-year legal battle, the Nagoya municipal government has been granted the right to tackle the city’s most visible example of a gomi yashiki – which literally translates as “rubbish house”.
Within days of the Nagoya District Court ruling in favour of an ordinance that gives the city the power to override a resident’s wishes in an extreme case of gomi yashiki, municipal workers began filling skips with debris that has spilled out of the three-storey home, across the pavement and into a side street.
Television footage of the building in the Naka district shows debris stacked high on its balconies and to the very roof of the parking space. Images broadcast by Fuji TV also show workers bringing cardboard boxes, plastic cartons and bags out of the property. City officials estimate it will take about three days to empty the 180-square-metre house.
The resident of the house is Hideyuki Aizawa, 62, who has rented it from his mother since 2000 and began his hoarding habit shortly after moving in. The city has also ordered him to vacate the property.
Media reports have stated Aizawa has had a “stormy” relationship with his neighbours, who have repeatedly filed requests with the city authorities for the mess to be cleaned up. Aizawa ignored efforts by the city to encourage him to do the work himself until neighbours filed a lawsuit against him, which the court has supported, giving the city the right to intervene.
Social commentators point out that while there have always been people whose homes could use a good tidy-up, the phenomenon of gomi yashiki – and the sheer number of cases – is relatively new.
“I see these properties quite often now, but 20 years ago they were virtually unheard of,” said Makoto Watanabe, a lecturer in communications and media at Hokkaido Bunkyo University. “Even 10 years ago, they were far less common than they seem to be now.
“Basically, people living in these conditions are doing so because they are unable to cope. They are almost always single people who have cut themselves off from the community around them and lead completely insular lives. And they are not able to deal with something as straightforward as throwing things away.
“Others in this situation are mentally ill in some way and are unable to handle their everyday domestic affairs but there is not enough support for them.
“In Japan, we are reluctant to intervene in other people’s lives – often even if we are family members – so nobody says anything and the problem just becomes worse and the rubbish piles up.”
Given the implosion of the traditional nuclear family and the increasing number of people living alone in Japan, Watanabe believes the problem is likely to intensify.
Other cities have enacted legislation aimed at ridding neighbourhoods of eyesore properties on the grounds that accumulated rubbish could collapse and injure a person, while decomposing waste can attract rats and insects and become a health hazard.
There were 31 complaints about gomi yashiki in Tokyo’s Adachi Ward alone last year, while about 250 municipalities across the country have reported similar problems.