Japan for the Uninvited

Japanese culture from a bemused foreign perspective


SuicideThe Japanese suicide rate is relatively high, and many Westerners see Japan as closely linked to suicide.

Japanese culture traditionally glorifies the act – its history and literature is full of honourable and glorious suicides, especially “harakiri” and “seppuku” (ritual disembowelment).

The modern equivalent is “inseki jisatsu”, or suicide to alleviate guilt, which has been a high-profile feature of Japan’s economic crisis, as desperate businessmen and politicians atone for their organisation’s shortcomings with a short, sharp shock. In many cases, the deaceased has been completely blameless, but chose to take responsibility.

Train platforms are a popular site, but potentially expensive, as bereaved families are charged for delays their lost loved ones cause.

Another famous spot is Aokigahara Forest, at the foot of Mount Fuji, which sees up to 100 suicides every year. Most of these bodies are found in an annual “suicide sweep” by local police and firefighters.

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