Prison & Japanese pensioners

Debbie Harris
March 2023  •  5 min read

Crime wave amongst Japanese pensioners

I read a very interesting article in the news recently about Japan’s elderly committing crimes in order to get themselves sent to prison.

69-year-old Toshio Takata said “I reached pension age and then I ran out of money. So it occurred to me – perhaps I could live for free if I lived in jail”.  So he committed a petty theft offence and was sentenced to a year in prison.  He has spent much of the last eight years in and out of prison and whilst he doesn’t ‘enjoy’ it; he still receives his pension and so has some money saved for his living expenses when he gets out.

Repeat offending is a way to ‘get back into prison’, where there are three square meals a day and no bills.

What a terribly sad and sorry state of affairs.  The state pension in Japan is not enough for a basic quality of life for a retiree and the trend of children looking after their elders waned some decades prior.

“Ultimately the relationship among people has changed. People have become more isolated. They don’t find a place to be in this society. They cannot put up with their loneliness,” says 85-year-old Kanichi Yamada.

What is somewhat ridiculous in all this (aside from elderly folk deliberately getting themselves into trouble) is that it would cost a lot less for the government to build an industrial complex retirement village where people would forfeit half their pension but get free food, free board and healthcare and so on, and get to play karaoke or gate-ball with the other residents and have a relative amount of freedom.

Although this is happening in Japan, we also have a problem here in the UK with the exorbitant cost of living in retirement homes (or care).  So much so, that many pensioners here (and in the US where there is a flourishing market tailored specifically to this) are opting to ‘live’ on cruise ships – they get meals, board, company, entertainment, healthcare and they get to see some incredible places along the way – highly preferable to a stint in Wormwood Scrubs!

A film available on your platform of choice starring Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Alan Arkin “Going in Style” picks up on a similar theme, though this group have had their pensions stolen through corporate mismanagement. Here is the trailer of the 2017 film directed by Zach Braff.