NEYAGAWA, JAPAN - DECEMBER 26: (CHINA OUT, SOUTH KOREA OUT) The house where a 33-year-old woman was found dead and in an emaciated state after being confined in a tiny chamber for about 17 years, is seen on December 26, 2017 in Neyagawa, Osaka, Japan. A couple kept their daughter imprisoned in a tiny windowless chamber for almost 17 years until she died in an emaciated state in mid-December, police said. The malnourished woman froze to death at age 33. She weighed just 19 kilograms, a forensic autopsy showed. Her father, company employee Yasutaka Kakimoto, 55, and mother, Yukari, 53, were arrested December 23 on suspicion of abandoning the corpse of the daughter. The chamber measuring 3.2 square meters occupied one of the rooms of the house, according to investigators. A temporary toilet and monitoring camera were installed inside the chamber, which was locked from outside and had no window. Recently, the daughter had to survive on one meal a day, which she ate inside her cell. She drank water through a tube from a water supply tank outside, investigators said.(Photo by The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images)

Tokyo (CNN)A couple in Japan have been arrested after their emaciated adult daughter was found dead in a windowless room where she had apparently been locked for at least 15 years.

Airi Kakimoto, 33, weighed less than 20 kilograms (42 pounds) — about the average weight of a 4-year-old — when her body was discovered Saturday, police said. She appeared to have died from exposure to the cold.
Yasutaka Kakimoto, 55, and Yukari Kakimoto, 53, who live in Osaka, in central Japan, kept their daughter in an unheated structure next to their house, according to police.
They had the room made and fitted with surveillance cameras, an air conditioner and a toilet, and had kept their daughter locked up from the age of 16, her father told police.
They fed her one meal a day and forced her to drink water through a tube.
The couple, who were arrested Tuesday and remain in police custody, said they confined their child because she was mentally ill and violent.
The official reason given for the arrests is abandoning a corpse. Under the law Osaka police have 23 days from the time of the arrest to decide whether to press charges. The defendants’ first court appearance would occur several months after any formal charges.

Social stigma

Kohei Yamamoto, a sociology professor at Kyoto’s Ritsumeikan University, said the case showed the “strong social stigma against mental illness in Japan.”
Given the way the parents locked up their daughter and hid her illness, Yamamoto said it showed they were “also victims of a Japanese society” which lacks good medical and community support system for the mentally disabled.
He warned there may be “many more families who have the same kind of issues and problems as this family,” but added this type of stigma is common in many other countries, not just Japan.
There have been multiple reports in Japan of parents killing their mentally ill children when caring for them becomes too much.
According to Japanese media reports, in August, a 72-year-old mother killed her 49-year-old mentally ill son, while in May 2016 an 81-year-old father suffocated his 47-year-old daughter and then killed himself in Kashiba, Nara prefecture.