Short doc looks at Japan's 'evaporated people' and the industry that helps them run away

In Japan, some who suffer from depression, addiction, or face other problems like domestic violence, drop out of society, shedding their old lives and sometimes changing their names or appearances. These johatsu, "evaporated people," often vanish from their lives overnight. This 16-minute documentary is a heartbreaking look at these "evaporated people" and the yonige-ya, "night movers," that help them run away. In 2021, more than 80,000 Japanese people "vanished into the night."

Destitute and shamed, some of the "evaporated people" seek refuge in places where other lost souls are known to exist. The doc starts with an interview with a man who now resides in an Osaka slum called Kamagasaki or Airin-Chiku. He reveals that after losing his job in 1985, he joined "homeless laborer communities" for work. Estranged from his family for over 35 years, he laments, "I lost touch with my family. If I went back, it would be awkward for everyone."

The documentary explains that while using "night movers" to help people "reset" their lives is popular, it's also fraught with danger as "'night moving' is sloppy and there's always trouble." A Chiba-based service shares that 90 percent of their clients are women, typically seeking escape from domestic violence or stalking. They also report a "tremendous increase" in business since before the pandemic. (Kottke)

TIME did a long piece on "evaporated people" in 2017:

Sometimes a whole team works on a client's disappearance, swiftly sweeping through an apartment in the dead of night. At [Yonigeya TS Corporation], it costs between ¥50,000 ($450) and ¥300,000 ($2,600) depending on the amount of possessions somebody wants to flee with, how far they're going, and whether the move needs to happen under the cover of darkness. Taking along children, or evading debt collectors, can push prices higher. Every day, TS receives between five and 10 inquiries like the one [TS CEO] Saita described. Most people simply require counseling or legal advice but the company claims to help between 100 and 150 people to vanish annually.