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Internet Suicide Pacts Surge in Japan 571

Posted by Zonk
from the not-what-the-internet-is-for dept.
darkmonkeh writes "The number of Japanese who killed themselves in online suicide pacts rose sharply last year, according to the BBC. Japan has one of the highest suicide rates in the world, and the pacts may appeal to those scared to die alone. These Japanese internet 'suicide clubs' accounted for at least 26 deaths in the last 2 months."
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Internet Suicide Pacts Surge in Japan

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  • Right to privacy (Score:4, Interesting)

    by aussie_a (778472) on Sunday February 12, 2006 @08:24PM (#14702451) Journal
    Good to see the Japanese people enjoy having a right to privacy :P
    • The first rule of online suicide club is...
  • Fitting? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Crussy (954015)
    Anyone else find it fitting that this comes right after the thread about Darwin? Natural Selection sure works wonders
    • Re:Fitting? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Jonny_eh (765306) on Sunday February 12, 2006 @10:11PM (#14703026)
      You're assuming that those who choose to commit suicide, for any reason, isn't worthy of living (or the world is better off without them). While I can see how someone can see it that way, I would have to disagree.

      It is very possible that these people can be very creative or smart and are in a temporary rut. Or it is also possible that they have somekind of illness like bipolar or manic depression, which is treatable.

      Plus, I bet that almost all of them have friends or family that would be very upset with this.
  • I have to wonder, what is it about Japanese culture that produces these people in such high numbers? In America, they'd listen to emo music.

    I have hunches but no evidence. Could somebody explain this tragic issue?
    • I have to wonder, what is it about Japanese culture that produces these people in such high numbers?

      I'm not sure that the numbers are all that high. 26 people out of a population of how many millions?

      -jcr
      • The specific type of sucides they are talking about are a small (but growing) subset of the total number of suicides.
      • I gather that that's only the number that have committed suicide in online pacts.
    • Whatever it is about Japan that produces suicidal people at higher rates, I know of three types of suicidal people in Japan:
      * Samuri doing it to regain honour/because they've lost too much honour.
      * Kamakazi pilots doing it most likely for patriotism.
      * Suicid clubs

      I wouldn't count you're average every day suicide because they happen all over the world. But as far as I know, nowhere but in Japan do the above 3 types of suicidal people get created to the degree in which they're created in Japan.
    • Land (Score:2, Insightful)

      by LeonGeeste (917243)
      They have so little land. They're all packed in there tightly. Scientists have done experiments with rats where they give them enough space and resources for 50 of them, start them with 10, let them breed, and then let nature take its course. What happens is that eventually they start fighting over resources (predictable) but also get mental illnesses at a much higher rate. They also started engaging in self-destructive acts. I think we see the same thing with Japanese people now. What, 130 million pe
      • Uh, that's the most bogus attempt to apply the results of animal studies to humans I've ever seen. According to this [wikipedia.org] Belgium and the Netherlands have a higher population density than Japan --- where are all the Belgian suicides? Also, your theory implies that urban areas would have a higher rate of suicide per capita, which AFAIK has not been observed.
    • Westerners often speculate that there must be some deep unhappiness in Japanese society to cause all these suicides, but I don't think that's necessarily the case. Suicide is much more prominent in Japanese mass culture than it is in the rest of the world, and there's less stigma attached to it. For centuries there have been honor suicides, love suicides and so on (common, and often viewed as positive acts). Popular Japanese authors regularly kill themselves (even more so than here). Also, Japan's main
      • For example, I remember reading that a popular 17th-century puppet play by Chikamatsu glorified love suicides, and as a result there was a rash of them. This deep-set tendency has only been partially reduced by Western influence.

        Goethe's "The Sorrows of Young Werther", about a love-stricken young poet that kills himself in despair caused a similar wave of suicides among European youths when it was first published.

        Similarily, this "wave" of internet suicides (which is nothing new; it's been reported here for
      • Japan can't be the only culture where suicide doesn't have a social stigma attatched to it. How does the suicide rate compare to those cultures?
    • Yo, we're normal high school kids. Get over the stereotype. We may look funny or listen to weird music, but hey, wasn't that the goths a few years back when everyone poked fun at them? We're as human as you. Don't let a few rotten apples ruin the whole bunch.
      • That was my very point. Emo kids don't commit suicide, but hikikomori do.

        Of course, a lot of (supposedly somewhat) knowledgable Slashdotters here say that Japanese culture has always found suicide far more acceptable than Western (ie: European-derived) culture. Apparently they've just got a higher proportion of the same number of depressed people who kill themselves.
    • I'm told that while murder and suicide rates vary widely across cultures, the sum of the murder and suicide rate is remarkably constant at around 22 deaths per 100K population per year. Presumably it suggests that we all resort to ultimate measures with about the same probability, but cultural differences determine who takes the bullet.

      rj

    • Japanese Culture (Score:5, Interesting)

      by CB-in-Tokyo (692617) on Monday February 13, 2006 @12:16AM (#14703588) Homepage
      "I have to wonder, what is it about Japanese culture that produces these people in such high numbers?"

      When you says these people I am going to assume you means suicides in general, and not just suicide clubs. First of all I want to say that 26 people in 2 months having died in suicide clubs, is likely FAR below the number that actually happened with clubs, and is definitely far below the number of actual suicides.

      I take the train in Tokyo to work everyday often, probably once per week, a train that I am riding on is delyed due to a "jishin jikko" which basically means self death incidient. Suicide is common in Japan. As to what cultural aspects influence this, not being a cultural expert, I can only guess at several.

      1) Historically suicide was a way to maintain, or regain your honour. Honour and spirit are very important in Japanese culture. It is more important to the older generation than the younger generation, however, the younger generation cannot help but having these ideals ingrained into their subconscious.

      2) Group thinking. The Japanese are extremely group oriented. The group is more important than the individual. Being ostracized by your group, and being in a position where you have let your group down can be extremely painful. It can be painful in any culture, but in Japan it is something more. There is an expression in Japan that says "The nail that sticks out must be hammered down!" This means that everyone should be alike and that anyone who is different should be forced to comply or exiled. For people who have never been in a group, or have been exiled from a group, the idea of joining a group again, where you are understood if even for a short time, could be a big motivator to join a suicide club.

      3) Pride. Japanese people are very proud and adverse to failure. There have been cases where people have starved to death rather than go onto any kind of government assitance. There are very clear cultural rules regarding what is proper or improper behaviour and people would rather literally die than break some of those rules and be shamed in front of their friends and family.

      4) Gaman suru! Gama suru essentially means to endure. In Japan, it is expected for people to endure hardships. To silently put up with tough situations and keep going. This is seen in many aspects of life here, whether it is pain, tough business situations, or the loss of a loved one. When the pressures get too high, it is hard to be able to talk to people and often suicide is seen as the easiest, most honourable out.

      5) School system. The school system here is incredibly competitive. The study ethic here is higher than anywhere else I have seen in the world, and the pressure to perform is incredible. Students often finish school and then go to a private school for more intense training in the evenings. Getting into a good university here is the hardest part, and it can determine your life. Pressure and failures at school are huge stresses on the students, and it is often easier to kill yourself, than to admit failure.

      If you look at the reasons above, and combine them together, it paints a better picture. There are probably reasons I have missed but I think the picture I have drawn is essentially correct. I have been in Japan for 6 years now, and am getting married to a Japanese woman in April. When we have children, I won't want them to go through a typical school in Japan.

      Cheers,

      CB
  • by 88NoSoup4U88 (721233) on Sunday February 12, 2006 @08:27PM (#14702478)
    Tyler Durden: The first rule of Suicide Club is - you do not talk about Suicide Club. The second rule of Suicide Club is - you DO NOT... Wait a second, never mind about the rules.
  • by PornMaster (749461) on Sunday February 12, 2006 @08:30PM (#14702497) Homepage
    So... 34000 Japanese killed themselves in 2003, and last year less than 100 people committed suicide as part of suicide clubs.

    1 in 340, or 0.3 percent of suicides are accounted for by this?

    People like to be horrified by the idea, but resources would be far better focused in pretty much any other way than worrying about this.
  • by shmookey (952796) on Sunday February 12, 2006 @08:30PM (#14702498)
    Oh, we slashdotters have known about them forever. We call them nightclubs.
  • Don't worry (Score:5, Funny)

    by cgenman (325138) on Sunday February 12, 2006 @08:30PM (#14702500) Homepage
    This sort of thing is self-regulating.

  • Paranoia Agent... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Llywelyn (531070) on Sunday February 12, 2006 @08:30PM (#14702501) Homepage
    Upon reading the title I was immediately reminded of Paranoia Agent, and now have that song stuck in my head...
  • by grazzy (56382) <.ten.ews.ekauq. .ta. .yzzarg.> on Sunday February 12, 2006 @08:32PM (#14702516) Homepage Journal
    We'll be staging a group sucide next friday. Bring your own CAT5.
  • by rolfwind (528248) on Sunday February 12, 2006 @08:38PM (#14702551)
    Is that they never get out - see the sun or get excercise. 30 minutes a day wards off all types of ailments, including depression (when was the last time a psychologist prescribed this?)

    I heard in China that they have mandatory exercise (in some parts, like around 20 minutes a day) throughout the day, including outdoor community facilities which people are encourage to use. I wonder how Japan, especially Tokyo, is in this regard - especially office workers.
    • Lots of Exercise (Score:2, Informative)

      by chub_mackerel (911522)

      Actually, public support and encouragement for exercise here in Japan is quite common. It's a matter of culture. One of the first things I'm always asked during the "introductory conversation" (which varies little from person to person) is what kind of sports I like to do. Kids and adults are encouraged to exercise. Many communities have very well-appointed civic community centers with gyms and pools and martial arts classes (public funding for something like that isn't seen as something evil and social

    • > Is that they never get out - see the sun or get excercise. 30 minutes a day wards off all types of ailments, including depression (when was the last time a psychologist prescribed this?)

      Why, oh why, must people take one or two people from their life and form an opinion based on anecdotal evidence on a planet with 6 billion folks. Trust me, excercise and sun does not cure a depressed person. Not leaving the house and not talking to people will help you become drepessed, but sun and fitness sure as hell
  • by Blazeix (924805)
    Obviously, All the japanese are infected with Toxoplasma [slashdot.org]!
  • one of the big factors in japanese suicides is the competitiveness and pressure placed on the students in the schooling system.
  • Japan and Suicide (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SinGunner (911891) on Sunday February 12, 2006 @08:48PM (#14702613)
    Having lived here awhile now, the idea of suicide in Japan is completely different from what it was in America. There are a couple things you have to keep in mind:

    A) Mental illness is heavily stigmatized
    B) Suicide is legal and only vaguely stigmatized

    Oh, and if you kill yourself by jumping in front of a train (I don't know how many times I've sat on a train where we couldn't move until they cleaned it off), your family has to pay Japan Railways for the cost of repairs/cleaning. So, if you're crazy and hate your family and work 70 hours a week, suicide doesn't seem that bad, really. Nobody seems to care that much about it either. People always laugh and joke when the train comes to an abrupt stop.

    Internet suicide is old news here. Just like your silly "cellular phones" and "computers". Telepathic communication is the new thing.
  • by bogaboga (793279) on Sunday February 12, 2006 @08:53PM (#14702639)
    Having been to Japan, I found a society that is near perfect...trains on time, organized streets, and very courteous folks. Everyone seemed to be busy with something. This masked what I guess I obviously failed to see.

    Then I visited East Africa where I found a priviledged few among a sea of poverty and hopelessness. But what struck me is the ease the Africans took life as. They seemed to be happy, always thinking that the following day would be a better one. They even shared the little they had, something very rare in a major city in the USA for example.

    This makes me wonder....What is it that we in the west miss out? Why is it that suicide rates in the so-called first world are significantly higher than those in the third world? Can we still call ourselves developed? I doubt.

    Where is the world going?

    • two words, man: Hakuna Matata
    • by pilkul (667659) on Sunday February 12, 2006 @09:21PM (#14702780)
      I once read that in the Nazi death camps, suicide was very rare, but in the month after the camps were liberated a large number of survivors took their lives.

      What I mean to say is that suicide is an act undertaken by those who are physically in good shape but psychologically and philosophically shattered. When you're starving, you think only of getting the next bite of food, and the thought of killing yourself is remote. When you have the time and mental capacity to ponder nihilism, that's when you take action. I think that would explain the third-world/first-world difference; there is not more misery in the first world, but the misery that exists is more conductive to suicide.

      • by mewsenews (251487) on Sunday February 12, 2006 @10:38PM (#14703145) Homepage
        Anyone interested in the depressing aspects of liberation from a death camp should check out a book called King Rat by James Clavell. The work is semi-autobiographical as it features Changi, a POW camp run by the Japanese during WWII, where the author himself had been confined.

        When the healthy, grinning troops from the Real World showed up, the prisoners were shattered when they realized just how totally screwed up they were, and how much they had lost in their grueling struggle for existance.

        Err, veering somewhat on topic, some of the characters ended their lives in ways you'll remember. It's a fantastic book.
    • I understand that the best gauge of happiness is relative standing with one's peers: basically, you're happy if you can believe (without too much strain) that you are doing a little better than your neighbors. This scale is independent of absolute wealth but it is sensitive to the range of possibilities one's sees for one's life (or the range of lives that one sees others apparently not too different than oneself living).

      So, the more visible models of others doing better, the more miserable we tend to be
    • Facing your own mortality, almost dying against your will, innoculates against suicidal tendencies pretty well. It forces you to develope a sense of fighting for survival.
    • by rubycodez (864176) on Sunday February 12, 2006 @09:36PM (#14702867)
      probably no one is tracking east african suicides, for one. East african mortality rate greater than one in ten, life expectency just over 30 years, plagues running rampant - does cause of death even get noticed or recorded there for the majority?
  • Suicide has become a widely discussed topic on many websites in Japan, and there is even a guidebook to the best places to kill yourself.

    Of course, they could always market the book as a haunted guide book. You know all those stories always start with someone kill themselves.
  • ... that will die out in a year or two.
  • ... I wouldn't want to be part of any suicide club that would have me as a member.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Your Rights Online: Internet Suicide Pacts Surge in Japan

    what the fuck does people killing themselves at the same time as other people using the internet have to do with my "rights online"?
  • You can destroy the Samurai, but you cannot destroy the Samurai inside man.

    //just saw The Last Samurai
  • When I saw this the episode "Happy Family Planning" of Paranoia Agent [wikipedia.org], I thought it was just the author's twisted plot device. But it turns out this happens for real. Who knew?

    Or perhaps we have a case of life imitating art?
  • I've read, on a few different occasions, the hypothesis that the high rate of suicide in Japan is due to the heavy work ethic there. Working hard is good, but from some things I've read [outpostnine.com], they just overexert themself, at least as I see it as a working American.

    As I understand it, failling is frowned upon much harsher there, culturally, than it is here in America.

    Also, did anyone think of the anime "Paranoia Agent" while reading this? It just made me think of one of the episodes half way through (6 or so) whe
  • by jkuff (170923) on Sunday February 12, 2006 @09:39PM (#14702879) Homepage
    Some of the culturally insensitive postings by slashdot readers is a bit disturbing. Having lived in Japan for several years, it is clear that Western morals regarding suicide do not necessarily apply in this complex and ancient culture.

    In addition, readers need to do their homework before posting factual errors or made-up numbers regarding its prevalence. More than 40% of the suicides in Japan are motivated by health-related reasons (older people whose health is failing). These suicide pacts comprise a very small percentage (less than 1%).

    Anyway, below are some statistics from 2003 in an article that appeared in The Japan Times on July 23, 2004:

    "A record 34,427 people committed suicide in Japan last year. (2003)

    The figure, up 7.1 percent from the previous year, remained above 30,000 for the sixth consecutive year, the National Police Agency said in a report released Thursday.

    The report says 8,897 people killed themselves over financial difficulties, up 12.1 percent from a year earlier and topping 8,000 for the first time since the NPA began keeping statistics on suicides in 1978.

    Suicides motivated by financial difficulties accounted for a quarter of all suicides in the year, comprising the second-largest group, compared with 11.2 percent in 1994.

    Almost 60 percent of the suicides in 2003 were by people in their 50s and older, it said.

    Health reasons were the motivation for the largest number of suicides in 2003, prompting 15,416, or 44.8 percent of the total, to take their lives. Some 8.5 percent committed suicide due to family problems.

    Men accounted for a record 72.5 percent of all suicides in 2003, contributing to the wider gap -- 6.97 years -- between the average life expectancies of men and women, as released earlier this month by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry."

  • it is mostly that the problems are supressed or ignored until it becomes very dangerous. If you look in the media there, there is alot of disturbing stuff that doesn't seem to reflect daily life at all, until it shows up in the news. I saw a post on /. recently about American neoslaves working themselves to death while Europeans enjoyed vacations twice as longs as ours, but what about the three months of rioting in France about the lack of jobs for the youth? Despite the incredible flamewars during the 2000
  • by Neo-Rio-101 (700494) on Sunday February 12, 2006 @10:15PM (#14703039)
    After living here for about 6-7 years, and working in a Japanese office environment, suicide is the result of the non-violent way that the Japanese have dealt with getting rid of people you don't like.

    The Japanese are no longer a violent race of people after the war, having said that, they are no less at peace with themselves or with others. Since they refuse to use violence, they have had to use other ways of controlling others - and the result is that the Japanese have evolved into a race of people who have learnt to push people's emotional buttons to defend themselves and get what they want.

    The fact is, if you can mentally make a person turn on THEMSELVES - then you don't have to kill them. You feed them guilt, you over work them, you deprive them of sleep, you bully them, you ignore them, you socially ostracize them... all the while faking a smile at them and telling them that you like them.

    OK, so someone gets angry and tries to use violence.... socially ostracized, arrested, lose your job, nobody will employ you, have a nice homeless life.

    This is what the younger generation has been fighting against by refusing full term employment. This is why you have a nation of recluses. This is why some people are bumping themselves off.
    • Wow . . . that's an awfully derogatory way to describe cultural differences. Yes, the Japanese dislike physical violence; yes, they can be clever at manipulating others' emotions; and yes, there may even be a cause-and-effect relationship between those two traits. But implying that they use that method to "get what they want" or "defend themselves" in the same way as Westerners do shows a basic misunderstanding of Japanese culture.

      Japanese, on the whole, place significant value on helping others rather t

  • by sorak (246725) on Sunday February 12, 2006 @10:34PM (#14703131)

    ...But with all the internet fraud out there, I'd be worried about the other guy not upholding his end of the deal...

    ...they need a pay-pal type thing...a sort of "death-pal", which says that if you don't kill yourself, we'll send people to finish the job.

  • by Bodhammer (559311) on Sunday February 12, 2006 @11:18PM (#14703342)
    (Hawaiian music)

    Man#1 (Michael Palin) Aye! Very fussable, eh? Very fussable bit, that? eh?

    Man#2 (Graham Chapman): Grand meal, that was, eh?

    Others: Yes, wonderful, yes very good..

    Man#2: Nothing like a good glass of Chateau le Shlasseler, eh, Guissay?

    Man#3 (Terry Jones): Oh, you're right there, Robidaier.

    Man#4 (Eric Idle): Who'd 'ave thought, thirty year ago, we'd all be
    sitting here drinking Chateau de Shlasseler, eh?

    Man#1: Aye, in them days we was glad to have the price of a cup of tea!

    Man#2: Aye, a cup of cold tea!

    Man#4: Without milk or sugar!

    Man#3: Or tea!

    Man#1: Aye, in a cracked cup and all!

    Man#4: Oh, we never had a cup. We used to have to drink out of a
    rolled-up newspaper!

    Man#2: Aye, the best we could manage in those days was to suck on a piece
    of damp cloth!

    Man#3: Aye, but we were happy in those days, though we were poor.

    Man#1: Because we were poor! My old dad used to say to me: Money
    doesn't buy you happiness!

    Man#4: Aye, he was right, I was happier then and I had nothing. We
    used to live in this tiny old house with great big holes in the
    roof.

    Man#2: House! You were lucky to live in a house! We had to all live
    in one room, all twenty-six of us, no furniture, half the floor
    was missing, and were all huddled together in a corner for
    fear of falling!

    Man#3: You were lucky to have a room! We used to 'ave to live in a corridor!

    Man#1: Oh, we used to DREAM of living in a corridor. It would have
    been a palace to us. We used to have to live in an old
    water tank in a rubbish pit. We got woke up every morning
    by having a load of rotting fish dumped all over us!
    House! Huh!

    Man#4: Well, when I say house, it was only a hole in the ground
    covered by a sheet of tarpaulin, but it was a house to us!

    Man#2: We were evicted from our hole in the ground. We had to go and
    live in a lake!

    Man#3: You were lucky to have a lake! There were a hundred and fifty
    of us, living in a shoebox in the middle of the road!

    Man#1: Cardboard box?

    Man#3: Aye!

    Man#1: You were lucky. We lived for three months in a paper bag in
    a septic tank. We used to have to get up at six in the
    morning, clean the paper bag, eat a crust of stale bread,
    go to work down at the mill, fourteen hours a day, week in, week
    out, for sixpence a week, and when we got home, our dad would
    thrash us to sleep with his belt.

    (slight pause)

    Man#2: Luxury. We used to have to get out of the lake at six o'clock
    in the morning, clean the lake, eat a handful of damp gravel,
    work a twenty-hour
  • Dorks. (Score:3, Funny)

    by corrosive_nf (744601) <corrosive23@gmail.com> on Sunday February 12, 2006 @11:40PM (#14703436)
    I love how a bunch of white dorks who watch anime, listen to j-pop and beat off to tentacle rape suddenly have this vast insight into the culture of japan. STFU dorks.

Facts are stubborn, but statistics are more pliable.

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