Saturday, June 03, 2006

Suicide: The Enduring Way of the Samurai?

Random picture of the day: A Pontocho geisha perfroming in Kamogawa Odori. Pontocho is one of Kyoto's 5 hanamachi, or geisha districts. This image has absolutely nothing to do with the following post. (^-^)v

Japan's total fertility rate, an indicator used for international comparisons of birth trends within individual countries, fell for the fifth consecutive year, hitting a record low of 1.25.

At the same time, suicides in Japan topped 30,000 (32,552) for the eigth straight year.

Not a good combination.

Japan's suicide rate is one of the highest in the world-- triple that of Great Britain, and double that of the United States. Suicides started to rise in 1998, when the country was mired in an economic slump. Since then the number of suicides has exceeded 30,000 every year. Males account for more than two-thirds of the total, with health problems and economic woes being cited as the most prevalent causes, respectively.

This year the number of students committing suicide reached 861, up 9.8 percent. University students accounted for more than half of the total, along with 7 elementary school pupils, 66 junior high school students, and 215 high school students .

Japan's cult suicide scene is also growing, with the number of Japanese killing themselves in groups rising steadily in recent years, from 34 in 2003 to 91 last year.

No religious prohibition exists against taking one's own life in Japan, condemning it as a sin or affront to god. Confucianism, in fact, sanctions suicide as a form of protecting one’s honor or protesting injustice. Suicide was once a form of ritual atonement for samurai, a poetic, redemptive act of purpose, considered to be both heroic and beautiful. Today it is a means of escaping failure and saving loved ones from embarrassment or financial loss.


Sera said...

7 elementary school kids? That's just scary.... granted, the suicide problem is disturbing, especially since it's getting worse, but it really freaks me out that a kid in elementary school would decide to kill themselves. That's just too young....

Lets not forget the "romantic suicide". I wonder how many do that still.

Zocko said...

I think Japanese suicide is incredibly sad because all those poor students are amazingly talented. Japan needs to slow down for the locals, as the daily intensity was one of the few things that scared me there. Hopefully God can help the next generation improve their lifestyles but maintain the beautiful culture.

Miss ya Melissa! And ... Hey keep in touch!

Sydney Arrows said...

remember under the 徳川幕府 (Tokugawa shogunate) suicide or death in battle was the only honourable way to die with none of the western stigma attached.

on another note i see melissa is now looking at the darker side of the japanese and god forbid you get as bad as stuart:

i believe i would paint a darker side of the united states :-)

Yamato said...

As you know, most of Japanese people, including me, are not very religious. Japan also has what you might call religions such as Shintoism and Buddhism, but they are more traditional manners and customs than religions in Japanese society.

I sometimes feel envious of people who believe in God. They might be able to stay calm when they have to face their deaths. And Christianity can prevent suicides at least although religions cannot prevent wars, and they even touch off wars.

Melissa said...

Yamato! Thank you for your comment!You`re right. "Religion", as difficult as it is to define, becomes even more amgibuous in Japan.

When people are born, they are registered and blessed at a shinto shrine. Many people get married in fake churches by fake preachers, and almost everyone has a Buddhist funeral. In between people celebrate local shito and buddhist festivals, Christmas, Halloween, and anything that seems fun at the time.

People are the cause of wars. Religion is used as an excuse to get people to fight.