The Modern Tokyo Times

International news and neglected issues

Suicide in Japan is a nightmare and post earthquake depression is a worry

Suicide in Japan is a nightmare and post earthquake depression is a worry

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Japan and the suicide problem

 Suicide in Japan is a major problem and more than 30,000 individuals will take their life this year.  This figure is astonishingly high and it appears that little is being done in order to highlight this serious and complex issue.

All nations have negatives and positives and obviously some nations are blighted by endless wars and poverty.  However, Japan is relatively prosperous but like any nation you will have pockets of poverty and regional gaps are noticeable. 

The image of Japan is one of being high-tech, modern, prosperous, and a nation state which is based on democracy and religious freedom.  This is all true and the same applies to the low crime rate because in the whole of Tokyo and throughout Japan; it is abundantly clear that crime rates are very low.

However, despite all the above mentioned positives it is factual that suicide is a major problem.  It is unbelievable to think that the earthquake and tsunami killed 28,000 people but by the end of 2011 more than 30,000 individuals in Japan will kill themselves.

It was even reported that a man who was 102 years old killed himself in Fukushima after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear radiation crisis.  He did not kill himself because of the radiation threat but instead he committed suicide because he did not want to leave the exclusion zone imposed around the nuclear plant.

Therefore, it appears that while some people suffer from depression on a regular basis and then decide to commit suicide; it is also true that “a quick trigger” is also responsible for many cases.

If you ask most people in Tokyo if they have been stuck on a train because of suicide and if you know somebody who killed themselves; then the overwhelming majority will state that they know someone who took their life and they have been stuck on the train because of the suicide crisis.

I have witnessed two people kill themselves in front of me and this applies to one man jumping to his death in Tobu Nerima.  The other was a young lady who suddenly jumped in front of the train at Harajuku train station. 

Therefore, the government, local government, and local agencies involved in suicide, are very worried about the effects of the earthquake, tsunami, and ongoing radiation problem in Fukushima.

Many fear that depression will take hold in some communities and people who reside far away from northeastern Japan may also feel the effects of the current prevailing conditions.

For the majority of people in Japan they are just getting on with their daily reality and of course the majority of people enjoy their high quality of life.

However, the 30,000 plus suicides a year is also factual and this is a yearly problem and the government, local government, families, friends, charities, and others; must not ignore this reality because the consequences are severe and each suicide also leads to greater stress and sadness within the respective family or circle of friends.

The factor behind suicide is complex because you have so many variables.  However, certain common factors do prop up and this applies to work pressure, unemployment, bullying, relationship failure, feeling crushed by consensus, depression, low esteem, financial concerns, caring for a loved one who is very sick, and other important reasons.

The “salary-man” syndrome is clearly problematic because the numbers of men who kill themselves within the “trapped world” of work and stress is very high amongst the 30,000 plus people who commit suicide each year in Japan.

Many young teenagers and adults have also gone into their shell and hikikomori is a real social problem.  Hikikomori is based on a heavy school load; social pressure; the need to conform; over protection within the family; unable to communicate properly; unable to understand reality because of over reliance on gadgets and computers; and other factors.

Suicide and hikikomori is also a problem in South Korea and regional factors in northeast Asia based on culture, thinking, and how suicide is seen, must play an important role.

The role of Buddhism and reincarnation, and the indigenous faith, Shinto, needs to be studied because it appears that suicide is not deemed to be a sin which leads to the gates of hell. Traditional Christianity was anti-suicide and it was believed that the individual would suffer in the after-life but Buddhism is rather vague on this issue.

It must be remembered that in Vietnam, and other mainly Buddhist nations, that some Buddhist priests burned themselves to death by self immolation during times of heightened political tensions.

Also, many famous writers in Japan like Yukio Mishima were fascinated by suicide and this applies to the cultural aspect of suicide.  Therefore, Yukio Mishima, and others, believed that the Bushido way could lead to a noble death and the kamikaze during World War Two will have fused this alongside enormous pressure from the military.

This may seem distant from modern Japan but the “psyche” within a nation is hard to change and outward appearances can be deceptive. 

Individualism is also seen to be negative within the workplace and expressing thinking is not always deemed to be positive when it applies to management or challenging the group mentality.  Confrontation is deemed to be socially rude and vented up pressure is not easy to release.

Therefore, for many workers who take their own life it appears that this factor, alongside long working hours, bullying, and a feeling of helplessness; is premeditating the soul.

Given this, then the recent earthquake and tsunami could create more depression and feeling of helplessness. If this happens, then the fear is that suicide numbers will increase later this year.

I have not mentioned all the factors behind suicide because the factors are many and again it must be stated that the majority of people in Japan are very happy.

Also, the issue of Buddhism and reincarnation being linked to suicide is controversial and some believe that you have a link but others deny this.

However, the “cold fact” is that over 30,000 people will commit suicide this year and alongside the 28,000 people who perished because of the earthquake and tsunami; then a lot of families, friends, co-workers, and other, will be affected by the suicide crisis in Japan which is not abating.

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