Photo/IllutrationMiyu Kojima’s room box of a home where a solitary death occurred in a bathtub. A rapid change in body temperature while taking a bath can lead to a stroke or heart failure, especially among elderly people. (Naoko Kawamura)

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  • Photo/Illustraion
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  • Photo/Illustraion

One miniature room model is cluttered with garbage strewn across furniture. Another tiny room box contains layers of trash and bottles of urine.

The miniatures symbolize solitary death sites where the bodies of occupants are often not found for extended periods.

Miyu Kojima produces such room boxes from memory.

The 26-year-old works for a Tokyo-based cleaning service provider that specializes in sorting and disposing of belongings left by the deceased.

Kojima said she creates the miniature rooms, each of them based loosely on a number of cases, not to shock people but to generate feelings of compassion.

“I would like many people to know the reality,” she said. “I want people to stop thinking that solitary deaths have nothing to do with them. I hope people will think about what they can do to prevent solitary deaths.”

Over the past few decades, an increasing number of elderly people, and even relatively young single people, have been dying alone at their homes. Their bodies are often left to decompose because there are no people around to check up on the occupants.

Kojima said clients, who are usually relatives of the deceased, often express shame or embarrassment over the messy conditions of the rooms.

She said she hopes the miniatures will show people that dirty or cluttered homes are “nothing special.”

“I don’t want people to be worried, thinking their (relatives’) homes are the only ones that are so messy,” she said.

Kojima said that hoarding, the compulsion to collect things excessively and the refusal to discard belongings, can afflict anyone.

“What if we lose someone close, or have psychological stress, and don’t feel like doing anything for days?” she said. “What if the situation gets out of hand before anyone else notices?”

Her room boxes are based on such themes as “solitary death” and “trash-hoarders’ room.”

At her work sites, she has seen piles of notices left by delivery drivers whose calls at the front door went unanswered. At one home, the body of the lone occupant was not discovered for months.

Kojima creates the miniatures by herself at the company’s office after finishing her cleanup work. For the room boxes, and based on her memory, she stains wallpaper bought from a hardware store and uses photocopiers to downsize packages of real products.

It takes about a month for Kojima to complete one room box.

She first publicly displayed her work at an industrial fair for funeral and burial-related businesses in 2016.

Kojima said people usually shy away from looking at actual photos of the sites of death, but she notices that they stare intently at her room boxes.