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Suicide in Japan

suicide in japanese, suicide in japan teenager
Suicide in Japan has become a significant national social issue12 In 2014 on average 70 Japanese people committed suicide every day, and the vast majority were men3 Japan has a relatively high suicide rate, but the number of suicides is declining and as of 2013 has been under 30,000 for three consecutive years4 Seventy-one percent of suicides in Japan were male,2 and it is the leading cause of death in men aged 20–4456 By 2016, suicide rates had reached a 22 year low of 21,764, that is, men decreased by 1,664 to 15,017 and women decreased by 597 to 6,7477

Factors in suicide include unemployment due to the economic recession in the 1990s and in the late 2000s/early 2010s, depression, and social pressures5 In 2007, the National Police Agency NPA revised the categorization of motives for suicide into a division of 50 reasons with up to three reasons listed for each suicide8 Suicides traced to losing jobs surged 653 percent, while those attributed to hardships in life increased 343 percent Depression remained at the top of the list for the third year in a row, rising 71 percent from the previous year8

In Japanese culture, there is a long history of honorable suicide, such as ritual suicide by Samurai to avoid being captured, flying one's plane into the enemy during WWII, or charging into the enemy fearlessly to prevent bringing shame on one's family9

There has been a rapid increase in suicides since the 1990s For example, 1998 saw a 347% increase over the previous year1 This has prompted the Japanese government to react by increasing funding to treat the causes of suicide and those recovering from failed suicides


  • 1 Demographics and locations
  • 2 Ties with business
  • 3 Cultural attitude toward suicide
  • 4 Government response
  • 5 See also
  • 6 References

Demographics and locationsedit

Typically, most suicides are men; 71% of suicide victims in 2007 were male2 In 2009, the number of suicides among men rose 641 to 23,472 with those age 40–69 accounting for 408% of the total Suicide was the leading cause of death among men age 20–4456 Males are two times more likely to cause their own deaths after a divorce than females are10 Nevertheless, suicide is still the leading cause of death for women age 15–34 in Japan511

In 2009, the number of suicides rose 2 percent to 32,845, exceeding 30,000 for the twelfth straight year and equating to nearly 26 suicides per 100,000 people12

A frequent location for suicides is in Aokigahara, a forested area at the base of Mount Fuji13 In the period leading up to 1988, about 30 suicides occurred there every year14 In 1999, 74 occurred,15 the record until 2002 when 78 suicides were found16 That record was eclipsed the following year when 105 bodies were found in 200317 The area is patrolled by police looking for suicides Police records show that, in 2010, there were 247 suicide attempts 54 of which were fatal in the forest16

Railroad tracks are also a common place for suicide, and the Chūō Rapid Line is particularly known for a high number18

The prefecture which ranks highest by suicides as of 2010 is Akita prefecture, with 3186 suicide victims per 100,000 inhabitants, 28% above the national average of 2294 victims per 100,000 people19 The opposite is Nara Prefecture, with 1728 suicide victims per 100,000 inhabitants

Nearly 2,000 high school students have committed suicide as a result of bullying20 The statistics for the year 2014 showed for the first time that suicide was the most common cause of death among those aged 10 to 192122

Ties with businessedit

Historically, Japan has been a male-dominated society with strong family ties and correlating social expectations; however, the bursting of the bubble which brought about the death of the "jobs-for-life" culture has left these heads of families unexpectedly struggling with job insecurity or the stigma of unemployment5 Japan's economy, the world's third-largest, experienced its worst recession since World War II in early 2009, propelling the nation's jobless rate to a record high of 57 percent in July 200923 The unemployed accounted for 57 percent of all suicides, the highest rate of any occupation group6 As a result of job losses, social inequality as measured on the Gini coefficient has also increased, which has been shown in studies to have affected the suicide rates in Japan proportionately more than in other OECD countries However in the case of Japan Air Lines Flight 123 the maintenance manager Hiroo Tominaga killed himself to apologize to the victims5

A contributing factor to the suicide statistics among those who were employed was the increasing pressure of retaining jobs by putting in more hours of overtime and taking fewer holidays and sick days According to government figures, "fatigue from work" and health problems, including work-related depression, were prime motives for suicides, adversely affecting the social wellbeing of salarymen and accounting for 47 percent of the suicides in 20082425 Out of 2,207 work-related suicides in 2007, the most common reason 672 suicides was overwork,24 a death known as karōshi

Furthermore, the void experienced after being forced to retire from the workplace is said to be partly responsible for the large number of elderly suicides every year26 In response to these deaths, many companies, communities, and local governments have begun to offer activities and classes for recently retired senior citizens who are at risk of feeling isolated, lonely, and without purpose or identity26

Consumer loan companies have much to do with the suicide rate The National Police Agency states that one fourth of all suicides are financially motivated Many deaths every year are described as being inseki-jisatsu 引責自殺, "responsibility-driven" suicides5 Japanese banks set extremely tough conditions for loans, forcing borrowers to use relatives and friends as guarantors who become liable for the defaulted loans, producing extreme guilt and despair in the borrower27 Rather than placing the burden on their guarantors, many have been attempting to take responsibility for their unpaid loans and outstanding debts through life insurance payouts5 In fiscal year 2005, 17 consumer loan firms received a combined 43 billion yen in suicide policy payouts on 4,908 borrowers – or some 15 percent of the 32,552 suicides in 200528 Lawyers and other experts allege that, in some cases, collectors harass debtors to the point they take this route28 Japanese nonbank lenders, starting in the mid-1990s, began taking out life insurance policies which include suicide payouts on borrowers that included suicide coverage, and borrowers are not required to be notified28

Cultural attitude toward suicideedit

Japanese society's attitude toward suicide has been termed "tolerant", and in many occasions suicide is seen as a morally responsible action11 This cultural tolerance may stem from the historical function of suicide in the military In feudal Japan, honorable suicide seppuku among Samurai Japanese warrior was considered a justified response to failure or inevitable defeat in battle Traditionally, seppuku involved the slashing open of one's stomach with a sword The purpose of this was to release the Samurai's spirit upon the enemy and thus avoid dishonorable execution at the hand of an enemy Today, honor suicides are also referred to as hara-kiri29

Cultural tolerance of suicide in Japan may also be explained by the concept of amae, or the need to be dependent on and accepted by others For the Japanese, acceptance and conformity are valued above one's individuality30 As a result of this perspective, one's worth is associated with how one is perceived by others31 Ultimately, this can lead to fragile self-concept and an increased likelihood of considering dying by suicide when one feels alienated30

The cultural heritage of suicide as a noble tradition still has some resonance While being investigated for an expenses scandal, Cabinet minister Toshikatsu Matsuoka took his life in 2007 The former governor of Tokyo, Shintaro Ishihara, described him as a "true samurai" for preserving his honour Ishihara was also the scriptwriter for the film I Go To Die For You, which glorifies the memory and bravery of the kamikaze pilots in WWII32

Although Japanese culture historically permitted more tolerant views on the morality and social acceptability of suicide, the rapid growth in suicide rate since the 1990s has increased public concern about suicide33 In particular, the trend of increased internet usage among adolescents and young adults as well as the rising popularity of websites related to suicide has raised concerns from the public and the media about how internet culture may be contributing to higher suicide rates11

One phenomenon that has been particularly concerning is that of Shinjū suicide pacts that are formed among individuals, typically strangers, via Internet forums and messageboards These pacts, which are popularly referred to as "Internet group suicide", are formed with the intention of all individuals meeting to die by suicide at the same time, by the same method29

While the concept of group suicide also has a historical presence in Japanese culture, traditional shinjū differs from modern Internet group suicide because it occurred among lovers or family members rather than among strangers Another difference is that mutual consent from those who die by historical shinjū was not required In other words, certain forms of shinjū might be considered "murder-suicide" in Western cultures rather than suicide An example of this type of shinjū would be a mother killing her children and then killing herself30

An example of historical shinjū in Japanese literature can be found in Chikamatsu Monzaemon's puppet play from 1703 entitled Sonezaki Shinjuu "The Love Suicides at Sonezaki", which was later re-engineered for the kabuki theater The inspiration for the play was an actual double suicide which had then recently occurred between two forbidden lovers34

It is also important to note that these modern shinjū have not received the same level of tolerance or social acceptability as an honor suicide seppuku or hara-kiri from the Japanese media Internet group suicide has generally been portrayed as a thoughtless and impulsive act by the media because it seems that there is no compelling reason for why individuals enter into such pacts In contrast, seppuku and hara-kiri serve a specific function; to preserve honor rather than die at the hand of an enemy11 However, this perception has been challenged by research on internet group suicide by Ozawa de-Silva, who argues that these deaths are "characterized by severe existential suffering, a loss of the "worth of living" ikigaiand a profound loneliness and lack of connection with others"11

Overall, modern public concern about Japan's increasing suicide rate has tended to focus on suicide as a social issue rather than a public health concern The distinction here is that Japanese culture emphasizes maladjustment into society and social factors as playing a larger role in an individual's decision to commit suicide than an individual psychopathology that is biological in nature33 Furthermore, stigma surrounding mental health care still exists in Japan11 Thus, there has been more emphasis on reforming social programs that contribute to economic stability ie welfare rather than creating specific mental health services

Government responseedit

In 2007, the government released a nine-step plan, a "counter-suicide White Paper", which it hopes will curb suicide by 20% by 201735 The goal of the white paper is to encourage investigation of the root causes of suicide in order to prevent it, change cultural attitudes toward suicide, and improve treatment of unsuccessful suicides35 In 2009, the Japanese government committed 158 billion yen towards suicide prevention strategies

Japan has allotted 124 billion yen $133 million in suicide prevention assets for the 2010 fiscal year ending March 2011, with plans to fund public counseling for those with overwhelming debts and those needing treatment for depression23

Amid the overall increase in self-inflicted death for 2009, the government claims there have been encouraging signs since September The Cabinet Office said the number of monthly suicides declined year-on-year between September 2009 and April 201023 According to preliminary figures compiled by the NPA, the number of suicides fell 90 percent from the year before8

See alsoedit

  • Japan portal
  • Psychology portal
  • Death portal
  • Aokigahara
  • Japanese work environment
  • Shame society
  • Suicide Circle
  • Demographics of Japan
  • Etiquette in Japan
  • List of countries by suicide rate


  1. ^ a b Strom, Stephanie 15 July 1999 "In Japan, Mired in Recession, Suicides Soar" The New York Times Retrieved 2008-09-20 
  2. ^ a b c Lewis, Leo 19 June 2008 "Japan gripped by suicide epidemic" The Times Retrieved 2008-09-20 
  3. ^ Rupert Wingfield-Hayes BBC News Why does Japan have such a high suicide rate 3 July 2015
  4. ^ "Suicides down fourth straight year" Kyodo 2 June 2014 Retrieved 2014-06-08 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h Chambers, Andrew 3 August 2010 "Japan: ending the culture of the 'honourable' suicide" The Guardian London Retrieved 2011-03-21 
  6. ^ a b c "Suicides Top 30,000 Cases in Japan for 12th Straight Year" Jiji Press Ticker Service 11 June 2010  |access-date= requires |url= help
  7. ^ Japan Times Jan 20, 2017 http://wwwjapantimescojp/news/2017/01/20/national/suicides-japan-drop-22-year-low-2016/  Missing or empty |title= help
  8. ^ a b c "Suicides due to hardships in life, job loss up sharply in 2009" Japan Economic Newswire 13 May 2010  |access-date= requires |url= help
  9. ^ "In Japanese culture, for example, there are basically two types of suicide: honorable and dishonorable suicide Honorable suicide is a means of protecting the reputation of one's family after a member has been found guilty a of dishonorable deed such as embezzlement or flunking out of college, or to save the nation as in the case of the kamikaze pilots in World War II Dishonorable suicide is when one takes his or her life for personal reasons in order to escape some turmoil This is thought of as a cowardly way out of life and a coward can only bring dishonor to his family" - "The Moral Dimensions of Properly Evaluating and Defining Suicide", by Edward S Harris, Chowan College
  10. ^ "The different impacts of socio-economic factors on suicide between males and females" Obesity, Fitness & Wellness Week 14 August 2010  |access-date= requires |url= help
  11. ^ a b c d e f Ozawa-de Silva, Chikako December 2008 "Too Lonely to Die Alone: Internet Suicide Pacts and Existential Suffering in Japan" Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry 32 4: 516–551 PMID 18800195 doi:101007/s11013-008-9108-0  p 519
  12. ^ "Suicides in Japan top 30,000 for 12th straight year, may surpass 2008 numbers" The Mainichi Daily News 26 December 2009 dead link
  13. ^ McCurry, Justin 19 June 2008 "Nearly 100 Japanese commit suicide each day" The Guardian London Retrieved 2008-09-20 
  14. ^ Takahashi, Yoshitomo 1988 "EJ383602 - Aokigahara-jukai: Suicide and Amnesia in Mt Fuji's Black Forest" Education Resources Information Center ERIC Retrieved 2008-09-20 
  15. ^ "Suicide manual could be banned" World: Asia-Pacific BBC News 10 December 1999 Retrieved 2008-09-20 
  16. ^ a b "'Suicide forest' yields 78 corpses" The Japan Times 7 February 2003 Retrieved 2008-09-20 
  17. ^ http://wwwaokigaharaforestcom/ retrieved 07022016
  18. ^ French, Howard W 6 June 2000 "Kunitachi City Journal; Japanese Trains Try to Shed a Gruesome Appeal" The New York Times Retrieved 2008-09-20 
  19. ^ 人口10万人あたりの自殺者数ランキング。都道府県格付研究所
  20. ^ Japan Teen Suicides CNN
  21. ^ mhlwgojp 第7表死因順位 Accessed 9/1/2015
  22. ^ Mariko Oi Tackling the deadliest day for Japanese teenagers BBC News 9/1/2015
  23. ^ a b c "Japan suicides rise to 33,000 in 2009" Associated Press Worldstream 13 May 2010  |access-date= requires |url= help
  24. ^ a b Harden, Blaine 13 July 2008 "Japan's Killer Work Ethic, Toyota Engineer's Family Awarded Compensation" The Washington Post Retrieved 2010-07-07 
  25. ^ "Japanese Suicide Rate Swells Amid Prolonged Economic Slump" RTT News United States 26 January 2010  |access-date= requires |url= help
  26. ^ a b Shah, Reena 2 August 1992 "In Japan, retiring is hard work" St Petersburg Times Florida  |access-date= requires |url= help
  27. ^ "Loans to tackle suicide" Geelong Advertiser Australia 1 - Main Edition 30 December 2009  |access-date= requires |url= help
  28. ^ a b c Nakamura, Akemi 13 December 2006 "Will lending law revision put brakes on debt-driven suicide" The Japan Times Retrieved 5 November 2014 
  29. ^ a b Naito, Ayumi 2007 "Internet Suicide in Japan: Implications for Child and Adolescent Mental Health" Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry 12 4: 583–597 doi:101177/1359104507080990 
  30. ^ a b c Ozawa-de Silva, Chikako 2010 "Shared Death: Self, Sociality, and Internet Group Suicide in Japan" Transcultural Psychiatry 47 4: 392–418 doi:101177/1363461510370239 
  31. ^ Rochat, Philippe 2009 "Commentary: Mutual recognition as a foundation of sociality and social comfort" Social cognition: Development, neuroscience, and autism: 302–317 
  32. ^ Chambers, Andrew 3 August 2010 "Japan: ending the culture of the 'honourable' suicide" The Guardian Retrieved 2010-03-08 
  33. ^ a b Ueno, Kayoko 2005 "Suicide as Japan's major export A note on Japanese Suicide Culture" Revista Espaco Academico 44 
  34. ^ Keene, Donald 30 April 2013 "Chikamatsu Monzaemon" Encyclopædia Britannica Retrieved 2014-11-24 
  35. ^ a b Lewis, Leo 12 November 2007 "90 suicides a day spur Japan into action" The Times Retrieved 2008-09-23 subscription required

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