A felt hat with the brim turned down. Scuffed shoes. A gravely voice, and fingers yellowed from chain-smoking unfiltered cigarettes. The stereotypical, hard-boiled image of a private detective owes much to the literary influences of such popular authors as Raymond Chandler, Dashiel Hammett and Ross McDonald. And since form follows art, no doubt there may even be some "shiritsu tantei" (private investigators) in Japan who actually make an effort to conform to that appearance while on assignment to catch an embezzler, track down a missing person or sniffing around to confirm a wary spouse's suspicions of marital infidelity.
Or, they could be on the lookout for a senile senior. The Nikkei Marketing Journal (Dec 16) reports that from January 1, a Koshigaya City, Saitama-based private investigative agency, Haraichi, will begin offering a new service in which its trained operatives assist families in keeping track of their elderly members.
In preparation for the new service, some 60 Haraichi staff have attended lectures organized by the local government to help familiarize people with those suffering from cognitive disorders. The company has also obtained the cooperation of an NGO named the Kaigo Life Support Association, with which it jointly produced a checklist to aid agents in the field.
At the client's request, the operative will patrol the residences of seniors living alone, unobtrusively tailing them when they go out to ensure their safety, and even going so far as to monitor the presence of vehicles in the garage. Or in a pinch they'll even accompany them shopping, going so far as to dole out the necessary cash to make a purchase.
Within five days after the service is completed, the client will be furnished with photographic evidence that the service was provided, along with an optical disc containing an activity report.
Haraichi's new service anticipates that the operatives will be posted within walking distance of the elderly person's place of residence. It plans to charge 32,000 yen and up for a 3-hour course and 108,000 yen and up for an 8-hour session. Jobs of other durations can be custom designed upon consultation.
"Over the past several years, we've been receiving more requests for these kind of patrols," Haraichi managing director Hiroshi Yamaguchi was quoted as saying. His detectives, he claims, can be worth it, as the police tend to be comparatively slow to react to missing persons requests.
"As our staff boast lots of knowhow for investigating and observing, we suppose that's why more customers have started coming to us," Yamaguchi tells the NMJ.
The elderly, particularly those living separately from their family, in many cases require more attention than might be the case for children. According to Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare statistics, Japan had 4.62 million diagnosed cases of dementia in 2012. By 2025, that figure is projected to increase to 7 million.© Japan Today