*to Hanlon's razor: Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

'April is the cruelest month': Japan's suicide season?

lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
memory and desire, stirring
dull roots with spring rain.

The Tokyo trains have had major 'accident resulting in injury or death' three of four mornings this week: suicides, attempted or successful.  Several Japanese I know have said, "Ahh... spring." when I mentioned I was delayed, confirming my suspicions that it's the response of some who failed assimilation to a: 'good' high school, university, or corporate job that happens from the beginning of this month. 
There is only one really serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide.
Especially if you live the unenviable life of the Japanese:
Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.
Jumping in front of a train, common enough at Shin-Ochanomizu station to have coined the term 'Chuocide', is the done thing.  I am not sure if it is the norm more because trains are such a common part of Japanese life, or as the one gesture that might get noticed in a 'failed' life, passive-aggressive as it is.

Tokyo, if not proper mental health, or another measure for success, there is always this:

In Canada the suicides peak in winter, often the 'holidays', and if you'd lived through our winters and holiday dinners, you'd know why.  I think the dullness and darkness better suits the urban Japanese psyche than spring:
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.


  1. It's strange how hear so much about the group mentality in Japan and putting the group above your own interests yet people suicide by jumping in front of trains and inconveniencing a whole lot of people.

    In Australia, train suicide is rare and I think it's because the trains pull into the stations a lot slower than they do in Japan, plus we have few express trains so they don't even get a real speed up. That means the chances of a permanent disability are more likely than death. We do get a lot of delays because idiots run across the tracks instead of waiting at the boom gates. Train doesn't care how much of a hurry you are in.

    1. Except remember, almost everyone in Japan is 'outgroup' in a Japanese mind, unless confronted by something foreign: 'wareware-Nihonjin' assumes 'outgroup' to be foreign. The people inconvenienced by a jumper are 'outgroup', if he's even in a group, so they don't rate. The jumper is 'outgroup' to everyone else. "And so it goes..."

  2. The suicide problem in Japan is a major symptom of cultural/societal sickness. Every country has such a sickness, but the one in Japan enables this behavior. Sure, most people think suicide is an unacceptable option, but it has been romanticized here to a significant degree. Couple that with a lack of any type of anti-suicide campaign or social services aimed at red-zone cases and you get what Japan has. Of course, if Japan does decide to be proactive and start helping people this way, it becomes an admission that its society (like many in the world) is broken, and we know that admission usually only happens in Japan when everyone is already aware of a person (or people's collective) guilt.

    1. Indeed. However, you might agree that this time the sudden transformation of Japan, like the Meiji Restoration or the Occupation, changing the apparent structure of the economy, society and polity, but keeping the same elites in charge, isn't going to be sufficient this time. Back to suicide, as there are no subcultures that haven't been subsumed by mass culture here, what out is there if there is no suicide?

    2. Also your life insurance gets paid out if you suicide. I was shocked to find that out. It does make it a 'noble' way to go if you fail in business or lose your job!

  3. I will have to agree with Billy about suicide being romanticized to a scary degree in Japan. And Kathryn, I find it shocking too, I disagree with payouts coming for suicide. It's like getting a prize for failing; no, you don't get a cookie for doing bad! But that starts getting my gears turning about suicide and who am I to condone or condemn it? Really for who is it to decide if one should choose to live or die other than the person that is making the choice for themselves. I still think if folks wanna off, they should do so out of the public eye. Maybe a suicide booth is what is needed, but I am going with Bender's suggesting and having beer now.

    1. I've survived because of Camus: "There is only one really serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide." I'm still here through some pointless years and aggravation because I won't give the bastards the satisfaction. Japanese suicide is the opposite.

  4. For some reason I've been under the impression that suicides peak during May and June, which would mean there's more jump n' bump assisted traffic on its way to the undergloom.