The dead man who wore pajamas – Part 1

Paulo Coelho

I remember reading a piece of news on the Internet that a man was found dead in Tokyo on 10 June 2004, dressed in his pajamas.

So what? I imagine that most people who die wearing their pajamas either a) died in their sleep, which is a blessing, or b) were in the company of their relatives or on a hospital bed – death did not come quickly, so they all had time to grow used to “the undesirable one,” as Brazilian poet Manuel Bandeira called it.

The news goes on: when he died, he was in his room. So, the hospital hypothesis is out and we are left with just the possibility that he died in his sleep, without suffering any, without even realizing that he would not see the light of day.

But there is still another possibility: assault followed by death.

Those who have visited Tokyo know that the gigantic city is at the same time one of the safest places in the world. I remember once stopping to eat with my editors before taking a trip to the interior of Japan – all our suitcases were in sight on the rear seat of the car. Immediately I said that it was very dangerous, someone was sure to come along, see all those bags and make off with our clothes, documents and so on. My editor just smiled and told me not to worry – he knew of no such incident in all his long years of life (in fact, nothing happened to our suitcases, although I kept tense all through dinner).

But to return to our dead man in pajamas: there was no sign of struggle, violence or anything of the sort. In an interview, a Metropolitan Police officer stated that it was almost certainly a case of a sudden heart attack. So the hypothesis of homicide was also eliminated.

The body had been found by workers of a construction company on the second floor of a building in a housing complex that was about to be torn down. Everything led to the idea that the dead man in the pajamas, unable to find anywhere to live in one of the most densely and expensive cities in the world, had simply decided to settle where he did not have to pay any rent.

And now for the tragic part of the story: our dead man was only a skeleton dressed in pajamas. At his side was an open newspaper dated 20 February 1984; a calendar on the table nearby gave the same date.

In other words, he had been there for twenty years.

And nobody had noticed his absence.

The rest of this text will be posted here on Friday 20th of March

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  1. Monica says:

    Sometimes that very thought runs through my head, how many days (I’d like to think it would be days, not decades) will pass until someone notices my absence?
    The other day I was watching this show about a guy who was dying and his last wish was to have someone remembering him and caring because he was about to die..It was the saddest thing I’ve heard. It’s even sadder to realize it’s not just fiction…

  2. sido says:

    “Help me, that my ears may be merciful, so that I may give heed to my neighbors’ needs and not be indifferent to their pains and moanings.” Saint Faustina

    I discover its surprising story and its meeting with the figure of Christ :
    Saint Faustina

  3. Ca says:


    Bom dia!!!!!!!:)
    Mto triste a vida deste homem, passar a vida inteira sozinho e morrer sozinho. Embora tanha suas vantagens, a solidí£o é muito triste. Confesso que por muitas vezes tive medo de passar a vida assim, como o homem de pijamas, ja que um certo momento de minha vida eu fiquei muito tempo sozinha. Mas eu ní£o conseguiria… A solidí£o me ajudou a me reestruturar, e retomar a energia de dar o meu melhor…Hoje me sinto mais pronta. Sei que ha um longo caminho pela frente, que tenho que me amelhorar muito, e sinto forte esta vontade, de cada vez estar melhor, comigo mesma, e consequentemente com meu proximo.
    Hoje é um dia abení§oado pra mim. Estou muito feliz de poder compartilhar este momento com vocíª, e com todos. Sei que vou estar na presení§a de Grandes Seres de Luz, e agradeí§o muito por esta energia. Agradeí§o muito a Deus e a vocíª.

    Até mais tarde,

    Meu amor, meu respeito e minha gratidí£o,


  4. Marie-Christine says:

    Dear Paulo,
    Thanks for that article.
    It reminded me of the dilemma you can face when you live faraway when your parents are getting old.Personally, having a good system in place does help and the solidarity of the neighbours is unbelievable, however it is not enough to ease your mind.
    Does a system need to be put in place to ensure that older people must live in special residences that will still give them their freedom and autonomy?
    You have to remember that leaving the other aged person to deal with the bulk is not – to my mind – (especially when one is handicapped )a very healthy way either. It puts an enormous amount of pressure on that person.
    Granted,the rights of the individual have to be taken into account – even if you notice that the situation is getting out of hand? – you go and talk to the authorities and they don’t seem to be too interested.
    The cost of retirement houses is prohibitive,not enough of them are in place.
    In a country like France, for example, they ask you to contribute if your parents cannot afford to pay for it.I was so surprised when I was told this. I have lived all my life abroad, paid my taxes abroad, yet I am asked to contribute.I hasten to add, if I had the money, I will gladly give it. Your husband does not understand what is going on either, he is not a French citizen and does not see any reason why he has to do that.
    All in all, the situation is very complex.
    I believe the whole system needs reviewing.

  5. orly says:

    sad just sad to see that there r human beeing- people- who r really lonely,and nobody notice when they gone,,,,
    i have one more thanking G-d tonite…
    i have my most wonderful family and friends,,, etc

  6. Do says:

    It is actually not that uncommon in Dutch they even have a special name for these cases: pin deaths (the pin refers to the pin worn on the nose because of the horrible smell when the bodies are taken to the morgue). It is hard to imagine that these people really had nobody who cared or checked on them. On the other hand if I see how some people treat their family I am also not that suprised. Unfortunately a large part of society has become quite impersonal and indifferent.It makes me sad.

  7. Popi says:

    To live and die unnoticed…it’s living death…there is no burden heavier than that…

  8. luce says:

    Well, sometimes I hate to live in small place where everybody knows everyone, where your neighbour knows what you eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner, where people come to knock on your door if they do not see you arround or to ask some vine if they forgot to buy but unexpected friend arrived…..
    I can go on and on, but if ever again I get angry because of nosiness of my neighbours this story will come to my mind !
    Blessings are sometimes hidden from our eyes !

    Thanks Paulo !!!


  9. candie says:

    Just started to read the first two sentences and then I said:And so?
    and then you said:”So what?”

    Anyway,I was going to say my love for pijamas,but I got till the end..That’s really sad,really really sad.How can such things happen?
    Talk about the importance of others here.Things like that are tragic and I don’t wish it to no one.He lived alone and he died alone.No one cared.Sad.

  10. T.K. says:

    a similar story…Ezekiel 34

  11. Alexandra says:

    Horrible.I wish to nobody such end,with no burial for so long time.

  12. Savita Vega says:

    Once, a number of years back, a friend of mine from Mexico (now a movie director) invited me to go with him to work on a photo essay he was doing on The Day of The Dead. Almost all of his work has rather gruesome turn to it, and in keeping with this, he had decided to visit the local morgue and include some photos from there – the real Face of Death, you might say. So he got permission to do the shoot, set up the appointment at the morgue, and I went with him. When we first arrived, the director of the morgue, an older Mexican gentleman, took one look at me – a young, twenty-something, wide-eyed, American girl – and was hesitant to let me enter. My friend assured him that I would be alright, and with that, we went in. First of all, it wasn’t like any morgue in the States – all sanitary and white – the place where the bodies were kept was a stone building, out back, with no air-conditioning (much less refrigeration), a concrete floor, and crude stone tables for the bodies, made sort of like shallow wash basins, with drainage holes in the bottom, that matched up with the drainage holes in the floor below, so that the body fluids would have a place to go. When we went end, the stench hit us so hard that my friend had to duck back outside for a moment to catch his breath. I was fine because I think I went into shock immediately upon entry – when you’re in shock, nothing phases you. There were three bodies, each lying naked on it’s own stone table. I remember that the building had a very high ceiling, sort of a dome, and there were huge windows up near the top, I suppose for ventilation. But somewhere up there was a fly, buzzing against a window pane, wanting out, and the sound of it echoed through my brain like a freight train, rattling the very timbers of my senses.We were there for about an hour, and I don’t think I spoke a word, but the whole time, two thoughts kept running through my mind, over and over, like a broken record: “That fly – doesn’t anyone hear it but me?! Would someone please open the window and let that fly out?!” And the other thought: “Sheets, where are the white sheets? Would somebody please have mercy, for God’s sake, won’t somebody please get a sheet and cover these people up!” I had expected to see vague forms covered in clean white sheets. What I beheld instead were three naked bodies, laid out on cold stone tables, in the center of a huge and otherwise empty room. And the crude stitches, running from chest to groin – I suppose from autopsy or some embalming procedure – were clearly visible. There was no dignity here – this was indeed the real Face of Death.

    But that was not all: One of the bodies had been there for almost a month. It was yellow – my friend and I later referred to him as “The Yellow Man in the morgue” (sometimes in the face of such horror, all we humans can do is make jokes and pray to laugh). He had been found on the rooftop of a building, alone, where he had died of alcohol poisoning, an empty bottle of mescal at his side. He had lain there until the sun had burned his body to a crisp, and huge black blisters, the size of the palm of my hand, were raised up all over his body. In that month that had passed since his death, no one had come to claim him. At the police station nearby, no one had come to look for him. No one knew his name, his place of residence, his family. He was just this nameless man in the morgue.

    I asked what would become of him. They director said that if no one came to claim him before the full thirty-one days was up, he would be buried in an a common grave (unmarked “paupers” grave) in the cemetery on the outskirts of town. This seemed particularly tragic at this time of the year – he would be buried during the celebrations that mark The Festival of The Dead, a period, lasting several days, in which the people of Mexico celebrate their dead, having large festivities at the cemeteries, bringing food and drink in offering to their deceased loved ones, creating altars and lighting candles on the tombstones to honor them. And yet this man, who died alone on a rooftop, drunk – who must have been somebody’s son, somebody’s lover at one time, maybe even somebody’s husband or father – he would know none of this.

    A few weeks after The Day of The Dead, was my birthday. My friend, who was back in Mexico City by then, and who had finished developing the photos for his essay, sent me a gift. It was in a plain manilla envelope, and when I opened it, there was a single black-and-white photo inside – the Yellow Man from the morgue. On the back of the photo was the following inscription:

    “Querer saber en donde fijo su ultima mirada, y que fue lo ultimo que vio. Pensar hacia donde mira ahora. Que sera in estos dias de su cuerpo? Habiendo alguien que todavia le llora, proque el ya no regresa.

    “Esnecesario pensar en la muerte para sentirse de alguna manera vivo, porque estando la muerte, ya no se pensa en nada.

    “Feliz Cumpleanos
    Un Beso y abrazos….”

    In past centuries it was common for people to carry, often on their person, some object that served to remind them of death, and ultimately, of their own mortality. These objects – often taking the form of pictures in lockets, a lock of hair from a dead loved one, etc. – were termed as “Memento mori” (from the Latin phrase “be mindful of death,” meaning “remember you will die”). This memento mori, the photo of the Yellow Man in The Morgue, sent to me by my friend, is one of my most prized possessions. I do not carry it always on my person, as it is too large, but I do keep it close at hand, in a box that sits upon my desk, and I do take it out from time to time and look at it and, as the phrase suggests: remember my own inevitable death. I also like to look at it, simply because, when I do, I know that at least one person on this earth is remembering that poor man who died on that roof, with no one to claim his body.

  13. Pandora says:

    This happened in England too, but they were found on their sofa, in a flat.

    Tragically sad.

    It was a building with three flats, and the neighbours didn’t notice or care to notice, despite the insects and smell.

    It was owned by a housing association, and eventually due to non payment of rent, the housing association called to collect their money – two years later.

    Thank God for friends, and loved ones.

    (In Croatia they discovered someone who had been dead for 35 years!)

    Google it – it happens a lot!

  14. Pavlik says:

    And I was learning to walk and speak back in the time when this forgotten man in Tokio died while reading…


  15. sido66 says:

    Last month, in France, a man was found dead: he died for 1 year and mummified.

    His brother was going to see him, he had rung at his door because he worried to have no news; but nobody answered, then he said to himself that he had left without preventing him…

    His neighbours, also, had concluded that he had left without preventing them…

    Let us be we so little thing?
    Let us make we enough attention to the others?
    Is our small life the center of the world?
    We llove we to know how to love the others?

    I even, since my meeting with God and his angels (etc. etc.) I am extended beyond searches(researches), work, movements, less attention towards the others due to the lack of time: shall be to see myself in time those who need us.
    Helps we Lord and guide us …