Why is Suicide a Recurring Theme
Qi的世界观 2017-06-02

    When I was a little boy,I have seen a lot of Japanese cartoons and Japanese TV drama. Samurai is agiant of Japanese culture heroic images. they are brave, decisive, strong,loyal and keeping the faith. Samurai is extremely positive image exists in manyliterature, film or television.

       But a problem I was confused is why samurai always uses asuicide to end their lives, and the film makes they die in a courageous manner.Those complicated suicide rituals and inexplicable behaviors called “Seppuku” WhenI am young and ignorant, I didn’t understand why something came out like this. 

       With the accumulation of experience andknowledge, I began to understand that all this was rooted in the sacrifice culturalof Asian. It’s different from American personal heroism. The spirit ofsacrifice is slightly different from that of European spirit of the knight. Inthe modern society, perhaps the spirit of Bushido no longer exists, but theJapanese really like to use a suicide way to end their own life. Accordingto WHO's suicide data, Japan ranks the world's 9th highest suicide rate countryin the world. 

via Wikipedia

       I’m a student from China. Before I came to the JAIST, I'venever been to Japan. In my traditional impression, Japan has a better socialwelfare and a higher level of economic development than China. It stands toreason that means usually a more happiness and higher quality of life. But Iwas shocked by the suicide rate data. In comparison to China at 52nd. South Koreaand Japan as development countries in Asia that the suicide rate is at theforefront of the world.


China is at a moderate level in 100countries. via Wikipedia

       What I learned though the Japan Studies is how to understandthis unusual social phenomenon.


  • l   Theculture comes from people’s pursuance and attempting to solve the problem


In thetraditional Japanese culture, death does not mean the end of life. Japan isstill more religious than China’s atheism. Unlike countries of Christianitywhere people are taught that suicide is a sin against God, Buddhism and Samuraiculture don't really accuse people of committing suicide. In fact, some peopleconsider suicide as a way of taking responsibility. Historically speaking, takingsamurai's hara-kiri or seppuku and Kamikaze pilots in World War II intoconsideration, suicide is not necessarily thought to be a dishonorable act inJapan. The people who believe that death for honor is a life of sublimationmore than China. Samurai chose to use death to bear the fault because a singleperson make a mistake will cause the whole family to be ashamed. Death may notbe able to make up for the fault but can make it not investigate. Samurai chosea way of social recognition to solve the problem in ancient times. And tomodern times, the Japanese still use death to solve some problem.


  • l   Everyonelives in a web of relationships, someone may be the reason for your suicide andyour death may affect others. 


Of course,no one is living the same life so the reason why they commit suicide depends ontheir own lives, but it seems like there are somemajor reasons that put Japanese people under a lot of pressure and make themwant to kill themselves. Bullying (especially at school) isone of the controversial social issues that leads to high suicide rate inJapan. Itis often   the casethat even after a student took his life, the school won't admit that there wasbullying going on at school saying that the student's suicide has nothing to dowith the school. 

Along with thedevelopment of technology, bullying on the internet has come to prevail inJapanese society. People go through mental pain caused by people on theinternet. This type of bullying shows little mercy because the bullies areoften anonymous and can say or do whatever they want to without deeply thinkingabout consequences. “Kuuki Yomenai” is very important in Japanese culture. It representsa subtle relationship. This relationship without express and communicate alsodepressed the Japanese personality and make them more solitary.

       The People who live in social have sociality. People willfollow the wind from the blind even if it is suicide. Every year, hundreds ofpeople Come to Aokigahara in Yamanashi to ending their own life. It like atrend, affecting people who have suicidal tendencies. Media publicity is alsovery critical, “Foxconn jump news event” in China is a perverse example to provethe media did not cut off improper remarks in time will take a huge mistake.


Aokigahara in Yamanashi oneof the most well-known suicide spots in Japan

Humanbehavior will inadvertently affect others. Many Japanese choose to suicide onthe rail, not only caused the attention of other people but also, we learned toexpect that things going on. When something happens to ourselves, we will makethe same decision simply. This is the so-called socialinertia thinking or bandwagon effect. 


  • l   Theeconomic base determines the superstructure but does not mean that high socialwelfare is good enough for everyone. 


Financial issues are oneof the reasons why Japanese people commit suicide today. Japan still widelyemploys the traditional patriarchal family system and men are often expected tomake money for the family while women do housework and raise kids. When theyare not making enough money to support the whole family, they feel hopeless andcan't stand the burden on her shoulders, which leads to the action ofcommitting suicide. Aside from psychological difference between men and women,this is probably one of the major reasons why more men commit suicide thanwomen in Japan.

The same problem alsooccurs at the company work or scholastic test. Like those of China and SouthKorea, entrance examinations are one of the hardest events Japanese people gothrough in life. Besides school, a lot of elementary school students go to aplace called "cram school/prep school" to get more educated andprepared for the entrance tests of junior high school. Junior high schoolstudents do the same to prepare for high school entrance exams. High schoolstudents again do the same to get into college. Having to deal with this hugepressure and anxiety of passing or failing the entrance exams from very youngage is almost brutal and some feel like there is no choice but kill themselvesto escape from this vicious life cycle. 

Simultaneous recruitingof new graduates is a very common way for college students to get a job inJapan. This system puts students under a lot of pressure because they usuallyhave to start looking for jobs in their junior year at college while they stillhave to focus on study. Japan is a very competitive country when it comes togetting prestigious jobs, and job hunting require way more than what normalcollege students can perform. A lot of students think that if they fail at thisnew grad recruiting, their life is doomed. If they have no job offer fromcompanies by the end of this job hunting phase, they tend to feel so depressedand hopeless. The fastest growing suicide demographic is young men and theevidence suggests these young people are killing themselves because they havelost hope and are incapable of seeking help. The sense of refusal from societydiminishes their motivation to live a life and some choose to die by their ownhand. 

Too much social welfarecan cause some problems. As we all know, Japan has an aging population, youngpeople are burdened by stress, many elderly people deaths for high deathcompensation which can bring a paycheck for their child. They thought it wasthe last thing they could do for their children. 

Financial anxietyand insecurity are compounded by Japan's culture of not complaining. Technologymay be making things worse, increasing young people's isolation. Japan isfamous for a condition called hikikomori, a type of acute social withdrawal.

Theyare molded to fit into a very small box and have no way to express their truefeelings

The young person affectedmay completely shut himself, it is most often a male, he gets off from theoutside world, withdrawing into a room and not coming out for months or even years.But that is only the most extreme form of what is now a widespread loss ofdirect face-to-face socializing. I have been doing this during the high schoolsummer vacation, but I cannot hold on for a week. when young people do findthemselves isolated and depressed, they have few places to turn to. Mentalillness is still very much a taboo here. There is little popular understandingof depression. Those suffering its symptoms are often too scared to talk aboutit. In my past impression, most of the Japanese are a little shy, this tends tomake thing worse. When thinking about problems like this, it is important tounderstand that suicide is not an individual construct but, like many things,is a socialized concept. People in all societies view the acceptability ofsuicide through their society’s perspective on how stress is experienced, howone responds to stressful situations, and the moral values associated with bothlife and death. Like any country, in Japan, there are different attitudes aboutwhether or not it is right to take one’s own life.


  • l   The culture will be revised by itself in the course of history.


Now that we all knowthese things, Japanese is also doing something about it. The fact is, Japan'ssuicide rates have seen an overall decrease since the early 2000s, both in thetotal number of suicides as well as suicide rate. Japan's suicide rates peakedin the late 1990s to early 2000s with the total number of people committingsuicide crossing 30,000 people for the first time in history in 1998 andpeaking in 2003 with 34,427 people (or about a hundred a day) committingsuicide.


viaJapanNational Police Agency


As we can see, stuff isimproving with constant decreases from 2009 onwards. Maybe it's because Japan'seconomy has stagnated instead of worsening like in the 1990s. It's hard to knowfor sure, but certainly, something right is happening. 

While doing research forthis article I did come across many websites with some information on how tocommit suicide. I didn't manage to find any of the infamous "suicidepact" websites, so maybe they were taken down? But the websites that I didfine kind of boggled my mind.


  • l   The end of the article

While Japan does havesome issues with suicide, it's not quite the "suicide-happy" countrythat many people make it out to be. in fact, it's been improving, slowly butsurely, suicide will be a recurring theme in Japanese culture. The purpose ofthis article is to build a better establish philosophy of my own life. I alsolearned a lot about Japanese culture that I never know before. I hope thesociety is getting better and better. We should value our existence and don'twaste life in solitude and fears. 

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