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Suicide in Japan has become a significant problem nationally.[1][2] Causes of suicide include unemployment (due to the economic recession in the 1990s), depression, and social pressures. Japan has one of the world's highest suicide rates, especially amongst industrialized nations,[3] and the Japanese government says the rate for 2006 is ninth highest in the world.[4]

In 2009, the number of suicides exceeded 30,000 for the twelfth straight year.[5] Since 2008, the economic situation worsened in Japan due to the global financial crisis, and this has pushed the suicide rate in Japan even higher.

The rapid increase in suicides since the 1990s has raised concerns, with 1998 having a 34.7% increase over the previous year.[1]


Demographics and locations

Typically most suicides are men, with over 71% of suicides in 2007 being male.[2] The rate among the over-60 population is also high, but people in their thirties are most likely to commit suicide.[2] Suicide is the leading cause of death for people under 30.[6]

The most frequent location for suicides is in Aokigahara, a forested area at the base of Mount Fuji.[7] In the period leading up to 1988, about 30 suicides occurred there every year.[8] In 1999, 74 occurred,[9] the record until 2002 when 78 suicides were found.[10] The area is patrolled by police looking for suicides, and that same year 83 people intending suicide were found and taken into protective custody.[10]

Railroad tracks are also a common place for suicide, and the Chūō Rapid Line is particularly known for a high number.[11]


Common methods of suicide are jumping in front of trains, leaping off high places, hanging, or overdosing on medication.[1] Rail companies will charge the families of those who commit suicide a fee depending on the severity of disrupted traffic.[11]

A newer method, gaining in popularity partly due to publicity from Internet suicide websites[2], is to use household products to make the poisonous gas hydrogen sulfide. In 2007, only 29 suicides used this gas, but in a span from January to September 2008, 867 suicides resulted from gas poisoning.[12]

Ties with business

Consumer loan companies have much to do with the suicide rate. In fiscal year 2005, 17 consumer loan firms received a combined 4.3 billion yen in suicide policy payouts on 4,908 borrowers -- or some 15 percent of the 32,552 suicides in 2005.[13] Lawyers and other experts allege that, in some cases, collectors harass debtors to the point they take this route.[13] Japanese nonbank lenders, starting about a decade before 2006, began taking out life insurance policies which include suicide payouts on borrowers that included suicide coverage, and borrowers are not required to be notified.[13]

Cultural attitude toward suicide

Suicide has never been criminalized in Japan. Japanese society's attitude toward suicide has been termed "tolerant", and on many occasions a suicide is seen as a morally responsible action.[6] However, the rise of Internet suicide websites and increasing rate of suicide pacts (shinjū) has raised concern from the public and media, which consider the pacts "thoughtless"[6].

Public discussion of the high rate of suicide focuses on blaming the economic hardship faced by middle-aged men. In addition, increase in Internet use (particularly the suicide websites) is partially blamed for the increase in suicide in recent years[6].

During Japan's imperial years, suicide was common within the military. This included kamikaze, kaiten and suicide when a battle is lost.

Government response

Despite the recent economic upturn, suicide rates have continued to be high, prompting concern by the Japanese government.[14] The government has released a nine-step plan, a "counter-suicide White Paper", in 2007 which it hopes will curb suicide by 20% over the next 10 years.[14] The goals of the White Paper are to encourage investigation of the root causes of suicide in order to prevent it, change cultural attitude toward suicide, and improve treatment of unsuccessful suicides.[14]

See also



  1. ^ a b c Strom, Stephanie (15 July 1999). "In Japan, Mired in Recession, Suicides Soar". Health (The New York Times). Retrieved 2008-09-20. 
  2. ^ a b c d Lewis, Leo (19 June 2008). "Japan gripped by suicide epidemic". The Times (London). Retrieved 2008-09-20. 
  3. ^ "Asia:Japan: Guidelines to Reduce Suicide Rate". World (The New York Times). 9 June 2007. Retrieved 2008-09-20. 
  4. ^ "Girl's suicide leaves dozens ill from fumes". /asia ( 24 April 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-20. 
  5. ^ "Suicides in Japan top 30,000 for 12th straight year, may surpass 2008 numbers". The Mainichi Daily News. Dec. 26, 2009. 
  6. ^ a b c d Ozawa-de Silva, Chikako (December 2008), "Too Lonely to Die Alone: Internet Suicide Pacts and Existential Suffering in Japan", Cult Med Psychiatry 32 (4): 516–551, doi:10.1007/s11013-008-9108-0  p. 519
  7. ^ McCurry, Justin (19 June 2008). "Nearly 100 Japanese commit suicide each day". The Guardian. Retrieved 2008-09-20. 
  8. ^ Takahashi, Yoshitomo (1988). "EJ383602 - Aokigahara-jukai: Suicide and Amnesia in Mt. Fuji's Black Forest". Education Resources Information Center (ERIC). Retrieved 2008-09-20. 
  9. ^ "Suicide manual could be banned". World: Asia-Pacific (BBC News). 10 December 1999. Retrieved 2008-09-20. 
  10. ^ a b "'Suicide forest' yields 78 corpses". The Japan Times. 7 February 2003. Retrieved 2008-09-20. 
  11. ^ a b French, Howard W. (6 June 2000). "Kunitachi City Journal; Japanese Trains Try to Shed a Gruesome Appeal". Health (The New York Times). Retrieved 2008-09-20. 
  12. ^
  13. ^ a b c LOAN CRACKDOWN Will lending law revision put brakes on debt-driven suicide?
  14. ^ a b c Lewis, Leo (12 November 2007). "90 suicides a day spur Japan into action". The Times (London). Retrieved 2008-09-23. 


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