Today, one of the writers here at Ryugakusei Town was a few minutes late to the office because of a depressingly-common Japanese problem: suicide. His morning train was delayed since someone jumped in front of it. I suppose that person simply couldn’t face another day at work; that, or he decided to take a final snub at society by making everyone late for work.
Unfortunately, Japan has historically been very tolerant of suicide, so much so that it has become a cultural issue. Back in the days of the samurai, suicide was seen as an honorable way out. As recently as WW2, soldiers were expected to commit suicide rather than surrender; and let’s not forget the organization of kamikaze plane raids, where the pilots were expected to die from the very beginning. Even relatively famous public figures commit suicide: following a financial scandal, cabinet minister Toshikatsu Matsuoka did just that; later, the then Tokyo mayor Shintaro Ishihara lauded him as a “true samurai” for “preserving his honour” in such a manner. Suicide is also a major theme in various anime and movies (e.g. Evangelion).
Sadly, it isn’t uncommon for there to be instances of suicide around your everyday life in Japan. For example, Japanese trains are known for exceptional punctuality; if they are late it’s usually because of a jumper. Japanese friends and acquaintances usually know of at least one person who has committed suicide. As a co-worker explained, pressure to get into a good university, near-constant (unpaid) overtime, financial problems (loan sharks are another big issue here), bullying—Japanese people that suffer from these problems usually repress their anger and stress, leading what seem to be normal lives, until it is too late.
Still, Japan is a wonderful place to live in. Like any other place, it has positives and negatives. If you wish to live here, you’ll just have to learn to deal with both!