Saving 10,000: Winning a War on Suicide in Japan

When you call a suicide helpline in Japan you may have to dial that number 30 or 40 times, because the lines are so busy. A lot of people have a lot of problems, but nobody to talk to, nobody to listen, and they say “Please God, someone answer the phone.”

I dream of a war, a war on suicide, but I don’t even know who is the enemy. Who is it, what is it, that’s killing so many of us? One million people in the world every year, 30,000 lives lost in Japan alone. I don’t know what I’m doing, I just know I have to do something.

In Japan nobody dares to talk about the causes of suicide or how to fight them, but manuals teaching you how to kill yourself sell over a million copies. What if 10,000 lives could be saved in Japan? Not by miracles but by ideas, by honesty. Would anybody dare to listen? If death is darkness this is about life, this is about trying to take back life from the jaws of death; this is about choosing hope over despair, even when you’re desperately hanging on by your fingernails.

300,000 Japanese people have killed themselves in the last 10 years. That’s around the population of Iceland. The Japanese suicide rate is twice that of America, three times that of Thailand, nine times higher than Greece, and twelve times higher than the Philippines. Is that something acceptable, or is it time we start to fight back?

The suicide rate is high in Japan because killing themselves is maybe always in the back of their minds. When they face a serious problem they have to make some certain choices, and one of the alternate choices that they make is suicide.

One of the features of suicide in Japan is the weakness of people to suggestion. Look at how often Japanese people try to find others to die with, others who share the same despair. So they will search online to find each other, and they make plans to die together. There are lots of Japanese who do this. The feeling behind this behavior is that it seems more reassuring and safe to be with others, even though everybody is going to die. Why are the Japanese so vulnerable to the power of suggestion?

There are no samurai left in Japan today, there are no kamikaze pilots either. All that remains is a feeling that suicide can be beautiful. The suicidal tendency among Japanese authors has been extremely high, and if you just list them, going through the decades there are many who took their lives. And the pattern is totally out of shape with the rest of the world. There is nowhere else where the suicide of novelists is so prevalent.

What makes a suicide hotspot become a famous location for suicide? In the case of Tojimbo cliffs, there was the local author Jun Takami. He wrote a book “From the Edge of Death.” Death is always a bestseller and it made a tourist attraction. For Cape Ashizuri, there’s the author Torahiko Tamiya. His novel was also made into movie. It made the Cape a popular spot for suicide.

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