Sokushinbutsu Gone Wrong

  • Meet Sogen Kato


News to Share shows The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, all as news briefs. But this one…? Well, it is ugly, ugly, ugly.

The setting is Japan, and admittedly, this should be old news because it was uncovered in late 2010.

What makes it bad is that a family continued to fraudulently collect pension money for 32 years after this man’s death in 1978. It wasn’t discovered until 2010 when officials wanted to honor the 111 year old’s achievement of longevity during ‘Respect for the Aged Day‘. Our subject, who went by the name of Sogen Kato was thought to have been Tokyo’s oldest man, actually died at the age of 79.

“On Respect for the Aged Day, officials were told [by his family] that the reportedly 111 year old Kato could not personally receive his award because he was a ‘human vegetable’.”

What makes it ugly, ugly, ugly…?

We decided to file this under “The Ugly” since the story relates to a case of Sokushinbutsu* gone wrong. Proof of that is on the next page.

Prepare yourself, for as Vira Nova reported, officials, in trying to meet with Kato, met with various excuses and thereafter:

“…when police arrived, they did not see Kato preparing himself to be a mummy, what they saw was just a mummy.”

Police found him in his room, undisturbed for 32 years.

Sogen Kato Room Required Attribution: Image by Jkwchui [CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons


And ‘Sokushinbutsu gone wrong’ isn’t a pretty sight. Bad enough that the family defrauded their government…

“Turns out Kato was paid an annual pension from the state, which Kato’s relatives collected. It is estimated that one of Kato’s relatives collected ¥9,500,000 (or $117,939) by pretending Kato was still living. She was sentenced to 2 and a half years in prison.”

(Up next… the mummification image)


[Note – you may need to scroll down to view the mummification image]

Just a couple of more pieces to this not so brief brief:

When Buddhist monks engaged in Sokushinbutsu, it was a process of self-mummification through diet and isolation, started while very much alive. A successful mummification could take ten years and only perhaps 24 have ever been discovered.

Amusing Planet, in the article “Sokushinbutsu: The Bizarre Practice of Self Mummification” had this to say about it:

“The elaborate process started with 1,000 days of eating a special diet consisting only of nuts and seeds, while taking part in a regimen of rigorous physical activity that stripped them of their body fat. They then ate only bark and roots for another thousand days and began drinking a poisonous tea made from the sap of the Urushi tree, normally used to lacquer bowls.”

On their site are 7 recommended images of Sokushinbutsu as deemed successful. They aren’t to be rated “The Ugly” either…

By the way, the result of Kato being discovered was a nationwide campaign in Japan to find other missing benefactors who might have died, yet were still receiving pension. 234,354 people over 100 were noted with 77,000 of them reportedly over 120 if still alive.

Sometimes change happens for unusual reasons.

As for Sogen Kato, perhaps he does deserve some respect – judgment has yet to be made.

Sogen Kato Mummy during Sokushinbutsu




News to Share Brief sources, including the mummification image: OMG Viral NovaMeet Sogen Kato, Tokyo’s Oldest Man…That Apparently Died About 30 Years Ago” and the Amusing Planet article “Sokushinbutsu: The Bizarre Practice of Self Mummification

Wikipedia article source: “Sogen Kato

Room image from that Wikipedia page on Sogen Kato with attribution stated as:
By Jkwchui [CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons

More recommended images can be found on Amusing Planet