Miyu Kojima Creates Miniature Replicas Of Lonely Deaths
Twenty six-year old Miyu Kojima works for a company that cleans up after kodokushi (孤独死) or lonely deaths: a Japanese phenomenon of people dying alone and remaining undiscovered for a long period of time. The instances first began to be reported around 2000, and are thought to be a product of increased social isolation coupled with a greying population.
Part art therapy and part public service campaign, Kojima spends a large portion of her free time recreating detailed miniature replicas of the rooms she has cleaned. A word of caution: although recreated without the corpses, some of the replicas can be quite disturbing.
“I mainly clean up these flats, apartments, houses where lonely death had happened and also organise their mementos,” says Miyu. On average, those whose homes she cleans, she says, may have been lying undiscovered for a month or two; the longest, eight months. Sometimes, they clean the homes of people who died in hospital, were murdered or committed suicide.
At first, Miyu found the work tough. The scenes could be grotesque. Even after the body has been removed, hair and seepage from the corpse sometimes remain. The work can be physically demanding. But “what I find most difficult,” she explains, “is to talk to the family. I don’t know how much I can really ask or talk.”
To preserve and document the scene, the company always takes photographs of the rooms in case relatives want to see them. However, Kojima noticed that the photographs really don’t capture the sadness of the incident. And while she had no formal art training, she decided to go to her local craft store and buy supplies, which she used to create her replicas. She sometimes uses color-copies of the photographs, which she then sculpts into miniature objects.Kojima says that she spends about 1 month on each replica.