Asia Minute: Japanese Executive’s Living Funeral

Dec 13, 2017

Credit Machiko Arita / U.S. Air Force

A retired business executive in Japan threw an unusual party this week. He held the gathering to thank friends, family and colleagues—and to say goodbye. HPR’s Bill Dorman has more in today’s Asia Minute.

Satoru Anzaki spent a career at one of the world’s top makers of construction equipment.

He was president of Komatsu from 1995 to 2001, and later served as chairman. All during a period of international expansion for the company.

Earlier this year, Anzaki was diagnosed with terminal cancer.

Rather than greet the news with hushed tones, he put an ad in Japan’s leading business daily, the Nihon Keizai Shimbun.

He wrote not only about his medical condition, but also about his decision to skip chemotherapy.

And he made one more announcement:  plans for a party at a Tokyo hotel—which took place this week. More than a thousand invited guests showed up at what the media called a “living funeral” or an “end of life party”—an unusual concept in Japan.

The Mainichi Shimbun quoted one guest who said Anzaki was taken around to tables in his wheelchair—greeting guests and smiling and laughing.

A stage performance featured dancers from his native Tokushima Prefecture.

Anzaki said “I have enjoyed my life very much. I thought that being despondent is not in my nature.”

Asked why he made the arrangements himself, he said “If I had asked my company, they would have made it into a ceremonial affair, regardless of my wishes. I thought, if people are going to take the trouble to come, I want them to go home happy.”