The Japanese term "gomi yashiki," literally "rubbish house," describes the abodes of people who engage in compulsive hoarding. A "gomi yashiki" can be easily recognized by the disorderly overflow of various items, ranging from rusting scrap metal objects to automobile tires, etc, that fill the yard and in extreme cases overflow onto the street.
In addition to being an eyesore and fire hazard, they generate odor and attract rats, cockroaches and other vermin, frequently eliciting complaints from neighbors.
As Typhoon No. 6 approached the coast of Honshu on May 12, Yukan Fuji (May 15) reported that a "gomi yashiki" in Nagoya made the news, when people in the neighborhood began voicing apprehension.
The 3-story building was virtually buried in clutter, and apparently residents were concerned that torrential rains brought on by the typhoon would result in the trash being washed throughout the neighborhood.
"This much rain is nothing to be concerned over," the building's 59-year-old male inhabitant, who is not named in the article, reassured the reporter. "I'm going to stay here all through the night to keep an eye on things. So everything will be fine. Wet cardboard absorbs water and gets heavier, so somewhat surprisingly, there's no worry the boxes will fly off in the wind."
But what about all those empty cans on your roof?
"Ah, well they already blew away, so no worries," shrugged the man, taking a drag on his cigarette. Strewn at his feet were cooking pots, gas burners and bottles of food seasonings.
The man had cleared away a small space on the sidewalk, just enough to accommodate a futon, where he sleeps. He'd been living out on the street from July of last year.
"Some stuff toppled over and I can't open the door to get in," he explains, admitting he hadn't been inside the house "for about four years."
Some 40 years ago, the man's father, who had operated a lumber materials business on the site, rebuilt it as a house. After the death of his father, his mother inherited the property. The man has not held a job since age 27, and it was around that time that he began hoarding rubbish. Electricity, water and other utilities have long since been cut off; the man goes across the street to a hospital to use the toilet facilities, and obtains his water from a spigot in a nearby park.
"From time to time mom sends me some money, what's left from my father's estate," the man tells Yukan Fuji. "Except for my diabetes, which was diagnosed four years ago, I've been pretty healthy."
Somewhat remarkably, the man attempts to justify his trash collection out of patriotic motives.
"People denounce me, saying 'Rubbish, rubbish,' but these days relations between Japan and China have become worse," the man says. "If a war were to break out, what would Japan do? It would need resources like raw materials, right? In such a situation, this stuff would be useful!"
What the man views as "resources," however, the neighbors see as a nuisance.
"There's a big hornet's nest inside, and you can see them flying in and out," an 80-year old female neighbor muttered, adding, "I wish somebody would do something about it." Another expressed fear over a fire breaking out.
Even worse, the trash spilling onto the sidewalk forces primary school students on their way to school to take a short detour. Finally on May 8, Nagoya City issued a written order demanding that the man remove the trash from the street. On May 11, a truck was dispatched to carry it off, but even when filled to capacity, trash still remained on the street.
"We intend to persist in urging him to clean up his place," said a city worker. "If things don't get better, I'd expect we'll go with an order for removal."
An accompanying sidebar points out that in several of Tokyo's 23 central wards ordinances provide for the forcible removal of the offending clutter, upon which the owner will be billed for the cost, with an upward limit of 1 million yen. In other communities, funds are provided to elicit the owner's cooperation. Yukan Fuji notes that Nagoya, however, has yet to enact any legislation to deal with such problems.© Japan Today