Photo/IllutrationHideki Kiyokawa lived in Tokyo's Shibuya Ward and received public assistance from Shibuya Ward for about a decade. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

Who was that man?

He departed this world as Hideki Kiyokawa, but no trace could be found of him in official records following his death at a hospital in Tokyo's Shibuya Ward on June 25.

Hospital officials required to fill out paperwork on the man's death said he was not listed in a family register nor did he have a registered residence.

In Japan, a family register is essential for doing everything from getting married, applying for a passport and receiving various government services.

The Metropolitan Police Department and Shibuya Ward office tried to pinpoint the man's background based on what he had told people but drew a blank, and raising the question: Who was that mystery man?

Shibuya Ward officials said the man first came on their radar on June 10, 2009, when he was rushed to a hospital after collapsing in the ward. At that time, the man gave his name as Hideki Kiyokawa and said he was born in 1961. He was diagnosed with diabetes and chronic heart problems.

He had lived together in a common-law arrangement with a woman for a dozen or so years, but that relationship ended with his hospitalization. He had no other relatives to speak of.

The Shibuya Ward government approved public assistance benefits for the man under a special provision for those with no family register or registered residence.

Kiyokawa eventually talked about his background to ward officials.

He said his family register should be in what is now Uwajima, Ehime Prefecture. There, he claimed to have lived with his parents and an older sister, but after his parents divorced when he was in the fifth grade, Kiyokawa moved to Fukuoka, where his mother was born.

After graduating from a Fukuoka school, Kiyokawa attended a vocational school in Tokyo. He worked as a bartender in the Yotsuya and Shibuya districts of Tokyo as well as for a frozen food company in Fukuoka for seven years. He also worked at a mah-jongg parlor as well as bars and moved around to Osaka and later Tokyo again.

Based on what Kiyokawa said, ward officials confirmed the existence of the school he mentioned, but other government offices had no record of him or his parents. In effect, Hideki Kiyokawa did not exist within the Japanese administrative world.

When he was informed about that status, the man only looked doubtful.

But he did have a mobile phone with one number registered.

The number belonged to a 64-year-old man who met Kiyokawa in a rehabilitation facility in Taito Ward. Kiyokawa moved into the facility from April 2010 after being told about it by Shibuya Ward officials.

The man said he was impressed by what Kiyokawa knew about foreign nations and politics. He often watched news programs on a TV in the common room and seemed interested in social news.

When the man asked Kiyokawa about his family, he only said: "I hate my father. I never want to see him again."

That led the man to refrain from raising the topic again.

In April 2012, Kiyokawa was certified with a disability due to kidney problems. The disability certificate is issued in Shibuya Ward to those who can show they receive public assistance. That meant Kiyokawa received about 190,000 yen ($1,780) a month in public assistance and disability benefits. Toward the end of 2012, he moved into an apartment in the Yoyogi district of Shibuya Ward that did not require tenants to have a family register or previous residence record.

The man often visited Kiyokawa at that apartment and found books stacked up in the living room. Kiyokawa read not only the works of Haruki Murakami and Kenzo Kitakata, but also samurai drama novels.

The man often shopped for Kiyokawa, who found it increasingly difficult to get about by himself. The man also bought a mobile phone for Kiyokawa.

According to an individual supervising the apartment, in the six years that Kiyokawa lived there he did not receive a single item of mail addressed to him.

In March, he was again rushed to a hospital after his symptoms worsened.

The man visited about twice a month.

Kiyokawa told him: "I have caused you so much trouble. I don't think I will be around for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics."

Hospital officials turned to the Harajuku Police Station after Kiyokawa's death because he was, in effect, an unidentified individual. But fingerprint and DNA analysis turned up nothing on his identity.

The woman who lived at one time with Kiyokawa knew nothing about his upbringing.

A Shibuya Ward official was surprised that not even the police could positively identify the man.

"Kiyokawa appeared to be someone with an education and what he said about his background seemed reliable," the official said.

Kiyokawa has been cremated and his remains are being kept at a charnel house in Tokyo.

According to the Justice Ministry, there were 829 people around Japan without a family register as of July 10 of this year. But 79 percent of the cases involved individuals whose birth certificates were never submitted to avoid recognizing an ex-husband as the father of a child under Civil Law provisions.