Culture 101: Suicide in Japan

June 10, 2009 § 7 Comments

With an annual average of 32,000 suicide deaths, Japan is the suicide capital of the developed world. The typical victims tend to be highly educated and financially well off. This is not a major surprise since committing suicide is deemed a honorable act by many Japanese. The most recent high-profile case was the self-hanging of Japan’s agriculture minister.

Jumping off buildings and hanging are the two most popular suicide methods in Japan. As one recent survivor of a suicide attempt admits, the Japanese love to experience a flying sensation on their way to the afterlife. I wonder if skydiving in Japan is as fun as jumping off buildings.

[Simon N.]


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§ 7 Responses to Culture 101: Suicide in Japan

  • Miel says:

    i wonder if suicidal people sometimes wish they’re Japanese 😀

  • mimulus says:

    It’s a horrible thing, isn’t it? I can’t think of myself considering taking away my own life. I don’t know, only if the other option were a horrible death, I guess, and if I were sure of not having other chance.
    And I think in Japan, besides of being “traditional”, specially in cases of shame like the minister, the news of other people committing suicide like gives courage to do the same…for the ones who already think of it. It shows a lack of beliefs also, of the meaning of their lives.

  • Although the suicide rate in Japan is extremely and unnecessarily high other countries such as Russia, Hungary and Slovenia actually have higher rates:

    Nor is it true that the typical victims tend to be highly educated and financially well off.

    I would like to add a perspective from Japan and so will limit my comments to what I know about here but would first like to suggest that western media reports on suicide rates in Asian countries should try harder to get away from the tendency to trivialize and ‘orientalize’ the serious and preventable problem of increased suicide rates here over the last 10 years by reverting to stereotypical and much overused words and expressions.

    I am a psychologist and psychotherapist working in Japan for over 20 years. Mental health professionals in Japan have long known that the reason for the unnecessarily high suicide rate in Japan is due to unemployment, bankruptcies, and the increasing levels of stress on businessmen and other salaried workers who have suffered enormous hardship in Japan since the bursting of the stock market bubble here that peaked around 1997. Until that year Japan had an annual suicide of rate figures between 22,000 and 24,000 each year.

    Following the bursting of the stock market and the long term economic downturn that has followed here since the suicide rate in 1998 increased by around 35% and since 1998 the number of people killing themselves each year in Japan has consistently remained well over 30,000 each and every year to the present day.

    The current worldwide recession is of course impacting Japan too, so unless very proactive and well funded local and nation wide suicide prevention programs and initiatives are immediately it is very difficult to foresee the governments previously stated intention to reduce the suicide rate to around 23,000 by the year 2016 being achievable. On the contrary the numbers, and the human suffering and the depression and misery that the people who become part of these numbers, have to endure may well stay at the current levels that have persistently been the case here for the last ten years. It could even get worse unless even more is done to prevent this terrible loss of life.

    During these last ten years of these relentlessly high annual suicide rate numbers the western language media seems in the main to have done little more than have someone goes through the files and do a story on the so-called suicide forest or internet suicide clubs and copycat suicides (whether cheap heating fuel like charcoal brickettes or even cheaper household cleaning chemicals) without focusing on the bigger picture and need for effective action and solutions.

    Economic hardship, bankruptcies and unemployment have been the main cause of suicide in Japan over the last 10 years, as the well detailed reports behind the suicide rate numbers that have been issued every year until now by the National Police Agency in Japan show only to clearly if any journalist is prepared to learn Japanese or get a bilingual researcher to do the research to get to the real heart of the tragic story of the long term and unnecessarily high suicide rate problem in Japan.

    I would also like to suggest that as many Japanese and people have very high reading skills in English that any articles dealing with suicide in Japan could usefully provide contact details for hotlines and support services for people who are depressed and feeling suicidal.

    Useful telephone number for Japanese residents of Japan who speak Japanese and are feeling depressed or suicidal:

    Inochi no Denwa (Lifeline Telephone Service):
    Japan: 0120-738-556
    Tokyo: 3264 4343

    Andrew Grimes
    Tokyo Counseling Services

    • leafless says:

      I don’t consider Russia, Slovenia, and Hungary as “developed” countries. People in these countries have many other reasons to commit suicide.

      I removed the link to the list of developed countries and their suicide rates on your reply because the information on the wiki page is inconsistent; a different year is used for each country. This makes the comparison less convincing and potentially misleading.

  • Mr.R says:

    Well , Taking Japan as an example. I think there would be a corelation to the economics as well as the family orientation behind the reason for the higher rate. Economic reason remains a vital reason but also equally important is the family bond. Japan , incomparison to other developed nation has a strong family roots and bond. When a man/woman is beaten economically and finds himself unable to support his family , i think it drives him more to suicidal tendency .. May be the strong family bond of Japanese family system in comparison to other developed country could be a reason for higher rate.. Jus my thought on it.

  • Muhammad Waqas says:

    Still i can’t understand why the rate of Death is very high in Japan?

    • leafless says:

      Well, the rate of death is not very high in Japan. They have a good health care system and their people live a healthy life. They only commit suicide more often than other countries.

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