Noriko Hayashi/Panos Pictures

Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan

Cleaning staff carry a refrigerator down a flight of stairs in an old apartment building during the clearance of a flat that was home to an elderly couple. The husband died, and his wife lived alone until she died after spending two years in hospital. Two months later the couple's son hired a specialist cleaning company to clear out the apartment.

'Clean-out' businesses are booming in Japan, aligned to its population of the elderly and childless. 30 percent of the properties that are cleared by professionals involve a so-called 'lonely death'. While 'ghost houses', abandoned by ageing owners, account for a further 20 percent. The industry is also closely linked to the country's growing secondhand market which makes up more than 10 percent of all clothing sales.

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Noriko Hayashi/Panos Pictures
Kanagawa Prefecture
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8256 x 5504 pixels
69.9 x 46.6 cm (300 dpi)
27.52 x 18.35 inch (300 dpi)
28.2 MB size on disk
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