Updated: Nov 20, 2018
Apart from being a prominent country for its rich tradition and culture, Japan is also well-known for its long history of suicide. It's a common thing to do especially during the warring era. We can see that many still continue to take on this mindset even after 50 years or more.
During the warring era, there's the Samurai practice of committing "seppuku" whereby one withdraws his knife or sword, plunge it into his stomach and slice it open from the left to the right. Not to forget, they also have the young "kamikaze" pilots of 1945 who voluntarily pilot and crash the explosives-loaded fighter jets into the enemy target. In the past, these are considered the acts of loyalty and an honour to die for Japan since they will rather choose to kill themselves than to surrender or be killed by the enemies. They will surely be respected and remembered as brave warriors of Japan.
Today, some Japanese people think suicide is not a sin, but a way of taking responsibility. For example, the elderly may see suicide as a solution to the financial trouble faced by his/her family because when they are dead, the insurance company will pay the family and thus, easing/solving their financial problems.
Lonely Japanese elderly living in poverty are more likely to take their own lives as well. There are many cases of old people dying alone in their apartment since they are being neglected by their children. Apparently, many Japanese do not take care of their parents during old age.
However, Japan recently also have the highest youth suicide rates in the last 30 years. Suicide is the top reason for the deaths of youths. The government reported an approximate number of 250 children and teenagers who killed themselves between 2016 and 2017. This is by far, the highest death toll from suicide since 1986. This sure is despairing news given how developed of a country Japan is. A number of factors that might have led to this include stress, financial issues, and bullying.
Think nothing else can be worse? Suicide can be contagious. Someone's or even multiple people's deaths can contribute to a rise in suicidal behaviour among others. So, if someone has already harboured suicidal thoughts found that his/her close family or friend has commited suicide, he/she is more likely to follow suit.
Suicide can be perceived as erasing one's existence from life. There is another form of such act which does not involve death. About half a million of Japanese between 20-44 suffers from "Hikikomori" - a condition whereby they lock themselves in their room for at least half a year, doing nothing other than eat, shit and breathe. They do this to avoid interactions with people usually after heart breaks, traumatic events or is no longer able to cope with the overwhelming stress and expectations placed on them by their family and society.
Isn't it depressing to know that behind the beautiful image of Japan painted by the travel industries, this dark controversy exist?