After he was diagnosed with leukaemia in July, Katsuo Saito decided not to treat it and opted for palliative care. He had a hard time finding a bed at a hospice or hospital, so he spent most of his remaining weeks at home.
"There are about 20 people on the waiting lists," Saito, 89, told Reuters from his fifth-floor apartment in Tokyo where he lived alone.
More than 80 percent of Japanese prefer to die in hospital, according to the Yamato Clinic.
Leukaemia patient Saito finally found a hospice spot in September. Two days after he moved in, he died.
National insurance provides individual hospital rooms only in exceptional circumstances, so they are out of reach for those like pensioner Yasuhiro Sato, 75, a victim of terminal lung cancer.