In Japan there is a growing number of elderly men searching for love and companionship. Many are widowers or were never married. The Japan Times reports that a major marriage-hunting service company found a rise in the number of middle-aged and older men who have remained unmarried so far but are now looking for partners online or through marriage consultancy centres. The phenomenon has even inspired a 2014 novel by Hiroyuki Kurokawa in which a woman angled for inheritance by repeatedly marrying and dating elderly men. According to Kurokawa, elderly men are popular at marriage consultation centers. The novelist, who is himself 68, wrote of the psyche of elderly men who have few years left to them but with assets to spare:

“A man, who lives on his own and far from his family, would want (someone) to be with him, even if he knew his partner is only out for his money.”

Accepting a gold digger for companionship is one thing, but four elderly Japanese men found something worse through a matchmaking service: a “black widow”. 70-year-old Chisako Kakehi repeatedly met, dated and married elderly men. But Kakehi went further than merely “angle” for an inheritance, she was much more active. Through the use of cyanide, Kakehi killed three of elderly partners: her 75-year-old husband Isao and common-law partners Masanori Honda, 71, and Minoru Hioki, 75. She also attempted to kill a fourth man: Toshiaki Suehiro, 79. Sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction.

Before being arrested and convicted and sentenced to death (I didn’t know Japan still hanged criminals) Kakehi had made quite a killing from her modus operandi. She registered with a matchmaking service in the hope of meeting wealthy men with an annual income of more than ¥10 million (USD87,900). Over the years she married or was associated with more than 10 men and inherited about ¥1 billion. But somehow she eventually fell into debt despite repeated windfalls. She must have had some high-flying lifestyle to chew through over USD8 million!

Irrespective of her financial acumen, it seems that Kakehi was charming to her victims. Aside from her success in ensnaring 10 men, she was defended by one of her previous amours in her trial. A man in his 80s dated Kakehi around the time of her husband’s death. The man’s wife had died and he wanted the companionship of living with another person. He met her through matchmaking, was smitten and determined to marry her. He entrusted her with his house key at their fourth meeting and only broke up with her when warned off by the suspicious local police. Despite this, the witness described her as a “good woman”.

While the case might be thought of as cautionary for all of those elderly men wanting to meet someone new in the twilight of their life, novelist Kurokawa thought it would not necessarily prevent a similar incident occurring in the future.

“Elderly people living alone will increase due to a longer average life span. Those becoming second wives are also on the rise.”

After all, when you are alone with no family nearby, it must be tempting to take the chance of a finding a loving companion for your last few years in this world. Even if the danger of picking the wrong companion is a dose of cyanide.

Marcus Roberts is a Senior Researcher at the Maxim Institute in Auckland, New Zealand, and was co-editor of the former MercatorNet blog, Demography is Destiny. Marcus has a background in the law, both...