Yes, it does happen… suicides in Japan

This morning my husband left before me for work, calling me shortly afterwards that I should avoid the main exit of the apartment building today. Why? Because someone had jumped this morning… Living in Tokyo and using public transportation quite often I am used to check for the actual reason for the train delay, because it allows me to estimate easier the potential time frame until trains run as usual again and whether I should switch the train lines. This morning, suicide has come closer to home. Apart from 10 policemen running around, a yellow tape fencing off the area, plus a blue cover, everything seemed as usual (picture on the side). All what I can do is to pray…
On the other hand, moved by this event I started to wonder how the statistics look like on a global scale, especially the cultures I have personally experienced. According to the data of WHO (most recent year available), while I see in the US a much lower figure, I don’t perceive the gap from Japan to Switzerland as so big.

Japan: male 36.5, female 14.1 per 100,000 habitants
Switzerland: male 26.5, female 10.0 per 100,000 habitants
USA: male 17.6, female 4.1 per 100,000 habitants

With no intention to sound cold and uncaring, I simply would like to better understand the difference, let’s have a look at comparable countries.

Hong Kong: male 16.7, female 9.8 per 100,000 habitants
South Korea: male 18.8, female 8.3 per 100,000 habitants
Germany: male 20.2, female 7.3 per 100,000 habitants
Austria: male 27.3, female 10.3 per 100,000 habitants
Croatia: male 32.9, female 14.1 per 100,000 habitants
Finland: male 34.6, female 10.9 per 100,000 habitants
Sri Lanka: male 44.6, female 16.8 per 100,000 habitants
Slovenia: male 47.3, female 13.4 per 100,000 habitants
Ukraine: male 52.1, female 10.0 per 100,000 habitants
Belarus: male 63.6, female 9.5 per 100,000 habitants

Personally I perceive the higher number in Japan cannot be explained by alcoholism, climate or stress within society like with other countries. Furthermore then shifting the question on what countries show truly low suicide numbers, I am learning that in some cases the environment is friendlier and more comfortable, but not in all cases.

Jamaica: male 0.5, female 0.2 per 100,000 habitants
Peru: male 0.6, female 0.4 per 100,000 habitants
Guatemala: male 0.9, female 0.1 per 100,000 habitants
Azerbaijan: male 1.2, female 0.4 per 100,000 habitants
Kuwait: male 1.6, female 1.6 per 100,000 habitants
Barbados: male 2.2, female 0 per 100,000 habitants

I have solely a scientific background and societal problems like this let me feel only helpless. All what I can do is being more conscious about the well-being of the people I know. What else could I do?

Simply praying for the health, happiness and peace for everyone,

Sibylle Ito (シビル伊藤)

2 thoughts on “Yes, it does happen… suicides in Japan

  1. It’s unimaginable what you had to get up to today… I don’t take the train (Fear of being a sandwich) so I drive everywhere, but my husband has been late to work quite a few times for the aforementioned above. I’m sorry that this happened at your condo, and moving is expensive, esp if you own it…

    I don’t know if I’d move or not, but it would some how make me feel uneasy, how about you? Like you said, praying is all you can do. I was so curious as well about the statistics…. I wonder how China pairs?

    • Dear Elle Marie,

      of course I was at first surprised to hear it from my husband, but at the same time I know I live in an area with high buildings, so I had to expect that it will happen one day. Comparing to the living standards that I had experienced in Switzerland/Europe or then in the US, I perceive Tokyo as a more stressful place to be, while I am lucky as a foreigner I am not exposed to the same societal pressure. Having talked in the past to many jobless highly qualified early 50s male Japanese, or then helping out at Second Harvest last year I started to understand how many people can fall between the cracks of the social network. Moreover Japan was trying to move towards recovery and then the disaster hit… if this is not bad timing. In the near future I do not expect the suicide rate to go down in Japan.

      I had the same thoughts about China, but the numbers that I could get were not representative of the country as a whole. I guess the figure of the suicides in Japan and living standards can otherwise best be compared to Korea, but still there is a gap…
      Personally I see this event not as a reason to move. As a foreigner dealing with less stable employment than local nationals, I prefer to rent. I don’t like commuting times door to door for longer than 40 minutes, so I had my share of moving in Kanto area.

      One final point: While in the past I tried to live like every day like it could be my last day, now being awakended by the earthquake; I know I have to live it as my motto.

      All the best,


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