At 111 years old, Sogen Kato was the oldest man in Tokyo, and believed to be one of the oldest people in the world. But he has lost that title because he died -- 30 years ago. His family perpetuated the myth to collect his pension, police say.
Welfare officials grew suspicious earlier this year when they tried to visit Kato. The family refused to let anyone see him on repeated attempts. When they eventually returned with police, they found a mummified corpse believed to be Kato, lying on a bed in pajamas.
"His family must have known he has been dead all these years and acted as if nothing happened. It's so eerie," said Yutaka Muroi, a Tokyo metropolitan welfare official, according to a BBC report.
He is believed to have died in 1980 at the age of 81.
Police suspect Kato's family -- his 79-year-old daughter and two grandchildren -- kept Kato's death a secret to keep collecting his pension. Over the years they reportedly received some 9.5 million yen -- about 190,000 U.S. dollars.
However, the family denies any shenanigans, and has what it considers to be a reasonable explanation. They told a Japanese newspaper that Kato had "confined himself in his room more than 30 years ago and became a living Buddha."