For suicidal Japanese, help is finally at hand
Tomoko Hosaka

“So many bills began piling up,” he said. “I realized I needed help.”

His plight sounds much like that of millions worldwide in these tough times, but Japan is different. Here banks set stringent conditions for loans, forcing borrowers to rope relatives and friends into guaranteeing repayment.

This can plunge a defaulter into extreme guilt and despair, says Yasuyuki Sawada, lead researcher on a study published last year by University of Tokyo that showed a particularly high correlation between the suicide rate and economic indicators such as gross domestic product.

Yasuyuki Shimizu, a leading anti-suicide campaigner, says: “Japan is a society in which the weak are beaten down, and they are beaten down more quickly than other places. Japan is not an easy place to live.”

The Japanese have a culture of suicide, from the great Samurai warriors centuries ago to the Kamikaze warriors of World War II. This article reminds me of an article in BusinessWeek a few weeks ago, where one city decided to paint the insides of its subway stations a mellow blue in an effort to curb locals from jumping in front of oncoming trains.