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Thread: Suicidal Japan ?

  1. #1
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    Default Suicidal Japan ?

    From: Yahoo News

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070528/...minister_death

    This qoute got my attention:

    Japan has one of the highest suicide rates in the industrialized world. More than 32,000 people took their own lives in 2004. The country also has a deep-rooted tradition of ritual suicide, which was considered a way to restore one's honor or take responsibility for failings in feudal Japan.

    I wonder if this is a fact or a matter of media hype.
    Prince Loeffler
    Shugyokan Dojo

  2. #2
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    Hi Everyone,

    Just a note of personal interest on this case. I was at a reception party in Tokyo just last week with a fair few high-level politicians attending and the minister in question (Matsuoka-san) was attending. He just made a quick speech before disappearing but it is hard to believe he is gone now.

    Not that this excuses his actions, as it is very obvious he was involved in all sorts of dodgy dealings and corruption.

    It is well known that Japan does have a high suicide rate. It is fairly unusual for someone at such a high governmental level to do this, but there is very much a tradition of doing this to "take responsibility" (read "avoid responsibility") for wrongdoings. This inevitably happens in the inexplicable time-lag between when the scandal breaks and when police actually get round to questioning/arresting them. The result is that it is unlikely anyone will be able to get to the bottom of this murky pond now.

    Unfortunately there have been a rash of suicides recently amongst high school students who are being bullied. This most definitely falls in a different category to the above, and the culprits are usually tracked down fairly quickly afterwards.

    Regards,
    Justin August

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    I think that the issue of teen suicides has less to do with the idea of taking/avoiding responsibility and more to do with a high level of romantization of suicide in Japanese literature and popular culture. From the little I've seen, the whole "Romeo and Juliet" theme has been very popular in Japan for many centuries. I seem to recall that there are several Japanese website that offer suicide support groups-- no, not to help people keep from committing suicide, but to help people go through with it properly, and to help them find like-minded people to join them. There was an article in a Japanese paper a few months ago, I think, about a small group who killed themselves with carbon monoxide fumes. They had met each other on such a site and also used the site to download instructions for using the camp stove to generate the carbon monoxide.

    You get the same thing in the West as well, but I think it is more prevalent in Japan. I also think that the Japanese culture has a preference for sweeping unpleasantness under the rug rather than confronting it directly, so Japanese authorities, teachers, etc. may have a harder time taking an aggressive stance on a suicide problem, simply because they are reluctant to acknowledge that the problem exists.

    I know that I've oversimplified the issue, and used a few very sweeping generalizations along the way, but there's my less-than-.02.
    David Sims

    "Cuius testiculos habes, habeas cardia et cerebellum." - Terry Pratchet

    My opinion is, in all likelihood, worth exactly what you are paying for it.

  4. #4
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    I found a table from ca. 1991 onwards (to around 1998 IIRC) from the International Academy For Suicide Research which listed Japan as being number 21 on the list. For example my home country Finland was #9 on that list and USA #31.

    Sadly the IASR has moved from their address www.uni-wuerzburg.de/IASR to http://www.depts.ttu.edu/psy/iasronline/ and the table I'm referring to is no longer available. The cached page is available without the table from Google when looking for phrase "International Academy For Suicide Research Schmidtke".

    There's also a link to their journal,with article on the title "Suicide rates in the world: Update", but sadly I can't access SpringerLink from this computer: http://www.springerlink.com/content/2r6kxke3fnyyduj3/
    -Mikko Vilenius

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    Without having to borrow from Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet, Japan does indeed have its own literary history of suicide. Chikamatsu Monzaemon's plays about love suicide dramatized the notion of mutual suicide between lovers. He contrasted the ideals of giri and ninjo (loosely translated, obligation & passion) in his works. Natsume Soseki was heavily influenced by a general who committed seppuku after Emperor Meiji's death and incorporated the event into his novel Kokoro. Then there's the modern works, such as the manga & film Suicide Club.

    In my experience, everyone in Japan acknowledges that the problem (teen / worker suicide, politicians are rare since WWII) exists. I just don't know if they feel compelled to act or even know how to go about solving the problem. Japan doesn't have very good mental health care.
    Adam Westphal
    http://adamjiro.net/

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    Here is an overview of the World Health Organisation.

    Note the difference in actuality of these figures.

    ( Country Year Males Females, per 100.000)

    Higher than Japan

    LITHUANIA 03 74.3 13.9
    RUSSIAN FEDERATION 02 69.3 11.9
    BELARUS 03 63.3 10.3
    KAZAKHSTAN 02 50.2 8.8
    ESTONIA 02 47.7 9.8
    UKRAINE 02 46.7 8.4
    SLOVENIA 03 45.0 12.0
    LATVIA 03 45.0 9.7
    HUNGARY 03 44.9 12.0
    SRI LANKA 91 44.6 16.8


    Some others (personal selection)

    CHINA (Selected rural & urban areas) 99* 13.0 14.8
    CHINA (Hong Kong SAR) 02 20.7 10.2
    FINLAND 03 31.9 9.8
    FRANCE 01 26.6 9.1
    GERMANY 01 20.4 7.0
    JAPAN 02 35.2 12.8
    REPUBLIC OF KOREA 02 24.7 11.2
    UNITED KINGDOM 02 10.8 3.1
    UNITED STATES OF AMERICA 01 17.6 4.1

    Global trend


    Explanation offered by the Japanese Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications
    Due to the increasingly complex social environment created by a high-technology and competition-oriented society, the stress levels felt by all age groups are rising. The number of suicides in Japan surpassed the 30,000 mark for the first time in 1998 and has since remained in the range of 30,000 per year, registering at 30,539 in 2005. The suicide rate was relatively high for men in their twenties, thirties and forties.
    source
    Remi Vredeveldt

    "Hysterical knowledge is often mistaken for historical knowledge"

    Boni enim duces non aperto proelio, in quo est commune periculum, sed ex occulto semper adtemptant Vegetius Liber III, 9:5

  7. #7
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    Mr. Vredeveldt,

    Thank you for the updated list. It indeed seems that Eastern Europe and former Soviet Union nations not included, Japan has one of the highest rates of suicide.

    Come to think of it, Finlands former higher position I was preferring to might have been from the years of recession in the early 90's, when also the suicide rates peaked along with massive lay-offs and high unemployment rates. Not to say that the figures are all together too bright now-a-days, either...
    -Mikko Vilenius

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