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

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

2013, Society  -   48 Comments
Ratings: 8.79/10 from 169 users.

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.

Directed by: Rene Duignan

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48 Comments / User Reviews

  1. Chris

    Learn the truth. LIFE is sacred. Bring in contraception. Educate everyone especially children this

  2. slayeph

    The topic is good but this man is very patronising and condescending. There is no real explanation as to who the interviewers are, the facts are vague, his stories are generalised and he's always yelling.

  3. Nam Ho

    Thank you for posting this.

  4. john

    Sometimes suicide is the result of fully grokking ( to understand in fullness, profoundly and intuitively) the actual reality of life as it appears. Not having the choice whether to be born into a world where every life form survives and prospers by exploiting and destroying other life forms often in very horrific ways. That we ourselves have been the cause of uncountable death so we can masticate and deficate a mountain of corpses. That there is no proof of any meaning to life other than that mad and violent struggle to stay alive. And that humanity in general lives in denial of these truths. Some humans upon realizing this in it's fullness, after feeling compassion and empathy feel despair knowing this may just go on for all eternity. At least they may be able to end their suffering.

  5. SacredFire

    Our world has turned too competitive, too isolating, not adequately loving, nature has been desecrated and it is no surprise that people are not happy. The direction this world has gone is not good. It is no wonder people prefer to not be here.

  6. Yegor

    This dude keeps saying stop promoting suicide to make money of the views and yet it's exactly what he's doing from an opposite angle. Everyone has a right to take their own life if life becomes a torment that goes on for decades. This guy taunts poor people who chose to take their own life; sometimes there is no other option. I personally never attempted suicide neither I am considering it right know; however I totally understand why one would consider it if life becomes unbearable.

  7. 문하늘

    Came across this in a search to understand Japanese suicide after earlier today right in the middle of a busy afternoon at Osaka Station, I saw a lady jump to her death from the rooftop park :( so sad.

    1. Myathewolfeh

      I can't imagine how you must feel after that experience. I hope her family is doing okay and they know that what she did wasn't out of selfishness. Suicide is the result of extremely painful despair. Maybe now she has found her peace.

  8. Jon

    The propensity for suicide should not shock many who become familiar with the unique Japanese culture from movies or interactive video games. Harakiri or kamikaze are but alternative Japanese words for suicide that follow the warrior code of Bushido.

  9. Kimberly Stuver-Klaassen

    Sad, but interesting. Could have done without the screaming guy, though.

  10. ukulunga

    In the name of PROFITS, there will be no cure. The higher the suicide rates the more medication will be sold to help with the condition, maybe.

  11. Dave

    has been generalized and many times is badly understood, he is plain wrong when
    he says that nobody kills themselves in a right state of mind, or that suicide
    always comes from mental illness, I am a psychologist and have seen cases of
    very intelligent and sane people killing themselves. On the other
    hand, it is tough for some people to realize that the “perfect” world that they
    would like to believe we live in is really not that beautiful for others. In
    China, the amount of suicides borders 300,000 not in 10 years…but in 1 year
    alone (that is staggering). Moving away from suffering is our strongest instinct,
    you see, if a system tells you that by gaining material things you will be
    happy, that when you become popular and recognized you will be happy, but then
    you find yourself further and further away from that happiness, using the same
    example of the video, if someone reaches an amount of debt that makes us
    believe that this happiness becomes impossible, that we are trapped…that
    maximizes suffering. Yes some people off themselves when they fall in that area
    of depression and suffering, but others may kill themselves just by noticing/analyzing
    our human greed, violence potential, irresponsible reproduction, world
    destruction, etc and project it to a grim future. In general I agree with the
    author that people should be more empathetic with others instead of being filled
    by this enormous human indifference. But is that too much to ask from humans?

    1. Lucy Saw

      You have to consider that the filmmaker's urgency is motivated by guilt. The lonely neighbor whom he thought a pest, who was constantly trying to reach out to him even though he was trying to avoid her finally killed herself and he feels personally responsible.

  12. packerpf

    I've done lots of different research on Japanese culture and traditions. And the thing that ALWAYS stands out point 1 to me is that they are one of the worlds most consuming of seafood with high levels of mercury. I suggest that these people are becoming susceptible to high amounts of mercury poison, and with other natural disasters who knows what other forms of poisoning. It would rot the brain and make them depressed to the point of suicide. Of course this isn't proven, but that's always the thing that stands out the most over everything else.

    1. Alicia

      That sounds like a very big pill to swallow, however it makes sense to me. I wish that theory could be tested and proven true or false. Good thinking guy

  13. Guest

    The narrator was direct and to the point, as well as passionate. He wasn't reading a bedtime story, he was emotional and showing his disgust as to how the japanese society and system helps no one!!

  14. Vexst Junglist

    the guy narrating made me want to kill my self.

    1. Alex

      The music made me want to learn how to play the piano, and then kill myself.

    2. ukulunga

      get help. soon. If you're joking then you really need help. Either way, you're worst then those on this film.

  15. Vartooka

    This story is shocking and tragic. The prevailing mindset of the media and the government are driven by greed and self-interest. It is compounded by a cultural pride to present oneself in a particular way. Unfortunately, this cultural image is unhealthy and supports living a false life, not in keeping with living an inner truth.

    Fear, ridicule, looking bad, and losing status have snuffed out the very will to live. How to rekindle this inner fire, this love for life, this sense of self-worth, this integrity, this sense of purpose, meaning and direction? So many have lost their way in this regard. I was one of them. I was lost in thinking my value was based on what I owned and who I knew. I was miserable and had moments of wanting to end it all.

    My way back to living an authentic life began when I met a man, Marshall Vian Summers. He is a spiritual teacher and much, much more. His book, Steps to Knowledge, and his teachings recalibrated my life were instrumental in me finding my inner compass. It literally changed my life, brought things into focus for me and made me whole. Through his work I discovered and experienced that we are
    spiritual beings and to live a life without this awareness is to live a hollow life. Japan and its people need to find their inner compass and their courage to rise up against this suffocating oppression. May it be so.

  16. Wini Cyut

    People commit suicide for a variety of reasons. We should do our part to try and help those people who suicidal. If there are some people as 'indiana' suggests, who are not depressed, but has made a rational decision to die, then so be it. But I doubt there are many of them. Japan's problem is quite unique. I suspect tackling the suicide problem pose a threat to Japan's highly competitive and conformist society. Perhaps Japanese leaders see suicide as an 'acceptable' way society rids itself of weak members. A kind of 'survival for the fittest'. At the end of the day, it is really sad that the second richest country in the world has the highest suicide rate.

  17. indiana

    You ppl who made the documentary clearly are not able to grasp the mind of a suicidal the way...there are rational suicides think there are only people who kill themselves from desperation..well you are wrong again..the reasons can be from a range of emotions to a total lack of emotion....and there is one more very wrong statement: "suicide is always wrong"...this in fact is wrong.
    The only way to understand the concept of suicide is to feel the need for suicide yourselves for at least 20 times in your life.

    1. FOLAMI

      I agree. It is my life and not anyone else's, it is my choice when I want to leave this f*cked up life. Humans are not together, you have always been a separate society. S*upid men controlling the world who go to war for profit, greed and destroy the planet and its abundant resources with no compassion for other living beings or creatures. Committing genocide, brutally hurting one another physically. Mental instability due to lacking with horrible punishment. When will you grow up? I am depressed not because of my own personal issues but because of this whole picture. We live in h*ll already it is not someplace else, this is heaven we live in, it is not someplace else. We are in control of what we make of life, but we have to do it together as a whole. It is uncomfortable for to live in such a seep rate place and to ignore he realities of how life truly is is to be narcissistic. It affects me every day and it's depressing. I will go home one day, and in spirit I will return home, home is where I came from and not the physical realm. Those who are trying to "SAVE" those who want to be free from societies grip are only trying to get in good with their own belief system of what's right for them, trying to win some kind of browny points with their own God. This place, the 3D world is death and life is what you call death. I call it home.

    2. Vexst Junglist

      : ( i love life, but i hate the way im forced to live, the result is dispair and the feeling of a need to escape, i can imagine this feeling becoming too much to bare, thankfully depending on which way you look at it im here to suffer atleast for abit longer, i dont want to die, it would be a waste atleast for now, but i dont want to live in this mangled human system, there is no escape other than death, even in my most happy moments this feeling is still there, even when im secure and safe, i still look out and recoil in disgust, i can relate to what you say alot, sometimes i wish i belived in a god or heaven, although it would most likely make it easier to give up and trust in (god), cus for me there is nothing after death, nothingness is hard to comprihend, perhaps there is some kind of time dilation at the instant of death which makes your last moment seem like it lasts for ever who can know, theres so much to be sad about in this world, people who are happy are either blind or they willfully egnore the world unless it suits them. i strive to be in ballance neither sad nor happy, not such an easy task it also makes me a cold person in the eyes of most, i will carry on until my body wears down, i guess : (

    3. Jack1952

      That is the nature of life. Humans have the unique ability to contemplate life, what it means and it's demise. That ability can sometimes lead us to a despair that other creatures do not have to endure. It can also lead us to places of great beauty and an appreciation of the specialness of the things around us. Ultimately, it becomes a choice. One can wallow in all the negative aspects of every unfortunate incident we encounter, or, we can choose to accept the negative with the positive.

      When I was younger, I would let every encounter with people, every news item on tv, depress me. I saw nothing but a pointless existence around me. Finally, I suffered a great personal loss. At first, I walked through life like a zombie, believing that nothing really was worth my existence but a strange thing started to happen. Every negative aspect of my life was put to the litmus test of my loss. This was unintentional, but, as an example, if my boss annoyed me, I would think, what am I so upset about. This means nothing to me really. I'm the one making the big deal out of it by my insistence on dwelling on it. The hell with it. If it gets too bad, I'll quit. Life is too short to spend it obsessing about the things that really mean nothing. Ten years from now, no one will remember and all I accomplished was making my own existence miserable for no good reason.

      I have a choice and I'm taking it. That doesn't mean that I don't care. In fact, I care more than ever. I care enough that I want to create a positive atmosphere for all those who are important to me. It has transformed my life from one of self recrimination and smoldering resentment to one of acceptance and tranquillity. I love every moment of it and I have very little money, a one bedroom apartment, no vehicle and live a very Spartan lifestyle. I chose it and I love it and if I can do it, anyone can. I'm nothing special.

  18. Nada nada

    My country Brazil has 50000+ homicides per year (Japan has about a thousand or so.) About a million homeless kids in the street (didn't see a single child beggar in Japan yet.) Which one is more alarming? I mean, one thing is having health care and safety net to the poor (I know this because I've been living in Japan for almost 2 decades) and yet you got bored to get along or tackle whatever your problem might be so you decide to take your own life, other is to be born in absolute poverty and be killed or starve to death in the streets. Gimme a break...
    PS. For the record, suicide rate is fairly high in Brazil too (and I suspect pretty much anywhere else,) but it is almost insignificant a problem compared to other social issues. Japan has the luxury to preoccupy on that. As the saying goes: to forget a problem, bring a bigger one.

    1. Jack1952

      Well said. Some people are just not happy till they're not happy.

    2. majere880

      Ok. So the problem in Brazil negates the fact that there's a problem in Japan? Not so much...

    3. ukulunga

      I hope your lack of compassionate is not representative of Brazil. R u saying that only poor, hungry, orphans of Brazil are capable of suicide, depression and all other mental disorders? And that if you're rich you are incapable of feeling alone and depressed or suffered any number of mental illness? R u saying that $$$ solves all things? Or if you have enough $, then you can find a cure? Last I checked even those with $$$ get sick and die. Last I checked even the spoiled selfish people need medical help. Lastly, there is no cure for depression and most mental disorders. Thus, no amount of money will buy a cure. The cure lies in our own society which unfortunately does not care and care even less for those who are poor, old, young, disable and sick. Just look at the US and the sickness that lies therein. sorry... no cures.... Corporate America made sure of that.... in the name of profits.

  19. Guest

    this means there will be no sushi in 'heaven'???depressing,as kebap will be out too....not quite kosher for my likings !!

  20. John Murgaš

    I posted this on Facebook and people thought I was thinking of killing my self by watching this

    It's a big problem, specially when society promotes it! We should find out where the problem starts and move away from it, this system has been dehumanized for centuries.

    Instinct effect on ecological moral characters:
    An ecological organic paradigm can bring moral reasoning, moral responsibility, moral development, moral character, Ecological Conscience, character of taming the instinct of human violence and refining the moral sensibility of humanity.

    Most people are slaves to jobs they do not like only because they need money.
    Most laws are enacted for the benefit of corporations, which have enough money to lobby, bribe, or persuade government officials to make laws that serve their interests.

    1. I AM POP SLAG.

      "An ecological organic paradigm can bring moral reasoning, moral
      responsibility, moral development, moral character, Ecological
      Conscience, character of taming the instinct of human violence and
      refining the moral sensibility of humanity."

      yes i reckon it can...very nice words mister.

  21. tomregit

    Every society inures its citizens with certain beliefs. If those include a belief that suicide can be an honourable, even beautiful solution to a problem, it becomes a self evident truth and a cultural meme that is almost impossible to change. The westernisation of Japan has led to an ongoing transition of Japanese perceptions. For me the question is whether or not our cultural legacy should be imposed on other societies. In general, my feeling is that it should not.

    1. Jack1952

      Impose may not be the word to use. If it is part of their cultural legacy that allows an eight year old little girl to be bullied until she commits suicide, are we wrong to criticize? Should we always be silent when that word "culture" is invoked?
      Slavery, child labour, honour killings, female circumcision, blood feuds are also examples of cultural legacies in human history. Maybe we shouldn't physically impose ideas of freedom on others, but we darn well should say something when we believe and can demonstrate cultural hatred, apathy or bias. The Japanese live under a self imposed pressure that comes from all angles of society. Obviously, it is not fulfilling for a great many people there. There is nothing wrong with suggesting to these people that life does not have to be this way.

  22. CarimboHanky

    while in other places suicide is seen as a negative thing in japan suicide is a honourable thing...and it being part of the culture for centuries. from samurai' seppuku to banzai chage & kamikaze attacks during WW2...

    if they are happy committing suicide, i say let them be...

    1. AJF13

      But why are they choosing to commit suicide? If it is due to depression brought on by society or the economy and lack of jobs then is a real problem. Any society where people are seeking death rather than to live within it highlights huge problems present in said society. Don't you think. I just think this is a really simple way of looking at the situation.

    2. rudeboi

      I don't know this first hand, but maybe to them there are worse things than death. I know that's the way I feel.

    3. Philip Fong

      Yes, living in an expectable life is worst because its doomed, people of the past have less knowledge and they continue to breed economic slaves (us) and we've reached the tipping point. Everything else is occupied, label with price tag including wage dictated by market demand, chances of breaking away in a suppressed system is not worth the effort wasting entire life just to ensure income till old age and hopefully die before you can't work.

    4. Harry Nutzack

      sorry, but you seriously misread history as it relates to suicide, and japan. sepuku was in no way "honorable", it was just a way to escape disgrace with dignity. it also was an "out" that was the exclusive domain of a "warrior gentry" class. it allowed one to prove bravery, nothing more. such a "code of conduct" was actually fairly universal among gentry world over, at least until the second world war. a great cinematic example of this is a film by the name of "the four feathers", which deals with the stigma of perceived cowardice among english "gentlemen".

      the "bansai charge" is also a VERY universal military tactic, it was practiced by ALL forces as late as WW1. it's roots lie in the pikemens charge of middle ages warfare, which is a minor change from the spear phalanx of roman infantry tactic. the Japanese used it later than most anybody else because their tactics were fairly well set in stone during the Russian Japanese conflict of the beginning of the last century, at least as far as ground forces were concerned. cinematic examples of the tactic can be seen in such WW1 fare as "Galipoli", and "Pride and prejudice". WW1 was such a bloodbath because of this tactic, for the most part. (A bayonet charge against a fixed position, fortified trench line equipped with belt fed, water cooled machine guns that requires traversing barbed wire abatis is fatally foolhardy for what should be obvious reasons). The north Koreans and Chinese used the same tactic in the Korean war in such battles as the Chosin reservoir.

      The Kamikaze attack was a "last ditch" tactic that intended to use poorly trained, otherwise doomed pilots to inflict as much damage as possible. It was also a reasonably universal tactic, though less publicized in the western forces. JFK's older brother, Joseph, died when his "suicide bomber" accidentally exploded moments after take-off, his mission was to crash the plane into large coastal artillery emplacements in France (though he was supposed to parachute out after locking the controls into a shallow dive, the mission was considered a suicide mission even by the pilots trained for it). The "skip bombers" Lancasters that attacked the German dams were expected to sustain 100% fatalities. The expected casualty rate of the British daylight bomb raids on "fortress Europa" was in the high 80s percentage. The "pathfinder" bomber units of the night raids were expected to sustain similar rates. The fighter pilots of the "battle of Britain" expected full well to never come home, every time they flew a sortie. In the Pacific theater, the torpedo bombers of the US navy sustained 90% losses as a rule. The "fanatical kamikaze" was more a product of American propaganda than an anomalous tactic of the Japanese. It was universally accepted by pilots that flying in warfare, against a well armed enemy, was a guarantee of a very short life span. Often that life span ended with pilot and plane both crashing into enemy targets of value, no matter what side plane or target was aligned with. A close friend of my father, who was a B-17 crewman assigned to daylight raids in Europe proudly told me of tossing the hand crank used to retract the landing gear out of the plane as they took off for EVERY mission, so that they would have to return to base (he was a draftee, lol), as he had NO desire to "die for god and country". His crew was the only one of his original unit that survived the war.

  23. rudeboi

    Suicide in Japan is not look at as a bad thing. In fact, it's the bravest thing ANYBODY could do. With that, if a person wants to end their life for whatever reason, then a person should be able to do it.

    1. Animalia

      I would suspect that the reason the Japanese commit suicide is because they are rather a faithless group. I mean if u think that this life is the only one you will live then why go on suffering or even working if u will die in the end? It's logical for an atheist, unfortunately there is more to it and perhaps embracing a religion of some sort might have helped them decide to continue living.

    2. rudeboi

      Religion is most certainly not the answer. If I follow the logic you laid down here, then why even bother with anything. Family, friends, job, home none of that would be worth the effort it requires. For the Japanese honor means a lot and to fall short of that is worse than death. So why even live, if the living is in shame that you brought your family?

      I suffered/suffer from extreme depression because of a chemical imbalance. I have to live with that, and that's just that. I have thought about suicide every single day of my adult life. Someone would see that as pure hell and misery, but for me it has just become a part of my thought process. I don't think anyone could understand that, but that's it. That's what my life is like. We human can get used to ANYTHING.

    3. Animalia

      While I respect your opinion good sir, I do believe religion may contain a lot of unanswered questions in the quest to understand what is the purpose of life. If we can conclude that life has no purpose, that the big bang and what followed was a chance accident, then I wouldn't blame anyone for committing suicide. As it is human beings are the only creatures on this planet that will commit suicide on a "honorable" level, as it may seem. You're right, in the end family and friends are not worth the effort, not if it is all to end with no purpose. I'm sorry about your chemical imbalance, but it seems to me you have just given up on what there is in life and accepted your fate. It is not your destiny to continue to live in extreme depression because of a chemical imbalance. Get some real help. Not from the Western Doctors. But from those who have cured cancer through diet only and vitamin therapy, and not some drug that will only aggravate any disease's effects. Yes we can get used to anything, but you don't have to live like that. We have a choice. Good luck :)

    4. bringmeredwine

      I know what you mean, Dear.
      I only stick around so I don't devastate my loved ones.
      I quit my meds a few months ago because they had stopped working for me.
      But that's okay. I'm so used to this constant rage and sadness; that I have learned to hide it very well.

  24. ZarathustraSpeaks

    I would only say in response to your comments that "the burden of proof" would be on anyone that assumes that an individual needs an "advocate for the right to choose" as if that "right" does not already exist.

  25. ZarathustraSpeaks

    It seems worth asking what is the basis for the premise that we need to stop people from doing what is their choice to do. Obviously any choices made in life are influenced by our current mental state which in many cases may change if givin the chance. It seems to me one of lifes most basic rights is to make our own choices for ourselves. Suicide is in most cases the hardest on the family members left behind but that does not negate the individuals responsibility to weigh those factors and make their own decision.

    1. Johanna

      If someone decides to end their life then no societal law or convention will keep them from attempting to. But a distinction should be made between the individual's RESPONSIBILITY TO WEIGH those factors, and the individual RESPONSIBLY WEIGHING those factors, when contemplating their suicide. Everyone is personally responsible for their own health and life direction, but that does not mean that every decision is made responsibly.Yes, suicide is committed for many different reasons within unique circumstances and does not necessarily refer to an act resulting from one's hopelessness and loneliness. However, when the decision is rooted in an atypical state of mind, irrational assurance, or an outside threat, depression, anguish and bullying, then "responsible" is irrelevant and the worth in tolerating and advocating for someone's rights to choose for themselves, in this situation, is rendered moot, and, I would say, is no more than a cop out to not intervene.

      Suicide to this extent due to depression and loneliness more or less is a result of systemic social factors, the combination of multiple issues, which of course no panacea exists.

    2. Andy Dowling

      Yes, it is the individual's right to do what they please, regardless of their responsibilities in life (family, friends). The real problem is not the end prevention of suicide (stopping people at their very wits end to not take that final step), but to learn and understand why people are driven to this state of mind in the first place. THAT is suicide prevention. Find the source and change it. That doesn't mean we still shouldn't reach out to those who are at the edge of life. In the end, if someone wants to end their life then they will do so regardless of intervention. The people who are turned around at the last minute show that there was always a glimmer of hope that they wanted to be saved from ending their own life.