Rulebreakers – How I disappear

Air Date
BBC World Service | 19th of August 2020 | 11.32 a.m.
Director: Andreas Hartmann


Rulebreakers is a five-part series from the BBC World Service in collaboration with Sundance Institute, where film-makers more used to telling their stories in pictures, tell them in audio.
Hosted by the Iranian Artist and film maker Shirin Neshat, the series will explore five very different stories on the theme of Rulebreakers.

Programme One: How I Disappear
In Japan, people disappear with the help of so-called night moving companies, which help people to vanish without a trace overnight.

Struggling from the pressure of taking over his father’s successful family business, a middle-aged man chooses to disappear using the service of one of these companies. Leaving his wife, children and responsibilities behind, he is living in a temporary shelter hidden in a backyard of a residential neighborhood in Tokyo. He is one of Japan’s ‘evaporated people’, known as the ‘johatsu’ in Japanese.

Searching for an elderly man who’s gone missing, a private investigator from Yokohama travels to the infamous suicide forest Aokigahara at the foot of Mount Fuji, also known as the Sea Of Trees.

A single mother struggles to find her missing 22 year-old son due to Japan’s Act on the Protection of Personal Information, a strict privacy law which makes it virtually impossible for her to get any trace of him. This law is one of the reasons why in Japan it’s just easier to disappear.

In this programme we meet the people who choose to disappear and the people who are left behind, and explore how the phenomenon of disappearance is rooted in Japanese culture – and if we can all relate to it in a universal way.


With: Peter Becker and many others.

Image © BBC