Many people are familiar with the concept of a missing person, but few are aware of the shockingly high number of individuals that voluntarily disappear in Japan each year. Known as ‘johatsu’ or evaporated people, almost 85,000 Japanese citizens were reported missing in 2017 alone. This documentary, Evaporated People, delves into this mysterious world to uncover why so many individuals choose to flee their established lives and what truly happens when they do.
The film features an exclusive interview with a prominent missing persons investigator in Japan and dives deep into the motivations behind some of these disappearances. While it is often assumed that foul play is involved in such cases, many of them instead involve an underground industry known as ‘night moving’ – a kind of consumer witness protection program for those seeking to get away from creditors and troubled family lives. Cameras follow one such business owner as they meet with a potential client and illustrate how over 1,500 people have been helped to disappear by this company since its inception 17 years ago.
The filmmakers also explore the grief-stricken families left behind by these vanishings and spend time with one particular individual who has chosen to remain anonymous yet still explains his reasons for abandoning his wife and children. Through reconstructing his story and examining the larger phenomenon from an outside perspective, Evaporated People sheds light on an issue that often goes unnoticed by society at large. What conditions lead someone to feel so desperate that they consider disappearing? How can someone maintain individuality in such a stressful environment?
Evaporated People offers viewers an intriguing glimpse into a hidden world full of unanswered questions about modern-day Japan as well as global society at large. It is both a compelling story about courage and resilience in the face of hardships but also serves as an invitation for viewers to challenge their own preconceptions about why someone might want to start anew – encouraging us all to think more deeply about our own lives and values.