Japan’s Suicide Rate

“Japan has the eighth highest suicide rate in the world, according to the World Health Organization.”

AP reported that today in an article that mentioned how frequent suicides by toxic fumes are in Japan. It is saddening to hear that Japan’s suicide rate is so high-one of the highest for a first-world country. One may wonder where God is when one hears such tragedies. I honestly think that a lot of Japanese do wonder where God is. That alone should be motivation for Christians to tell Japanese people about Christ.

“Can Christianity really lower the sucide rate?” one may wonder. Let’s look at a few facets of the suicides that occur. Group suicides is not uncommon in Japan-it occurs many times. As reported by the AP, people may meet online, buy/borrow a car and go together somewhere farther off from civilization and kill themselves together. This is an interesting phenomenon. I really wonder how people can converse with each other about killing themselves, and neither one talks them out of it-or maybe they do and we just never hear about it.

For the ones who do go through with it, it’s sad to think that the relationship they had was broken by themselves. In our culture, suicides usually occur when people least expect it. I don’t mean to stereotype, but what I mean is that usually people say after a suicide in America that if somebody had just reached out to the victim or if the victim had just asked for help, then the suicide would have been prevented. People who commit suicide usually don’t tell anyone else. It’s kind of taboo-the moment you say something to somebody, that person will likely react and get help for the suicidal person.

I feel that if somebody is reached with Christ, they can find rest in a living God. The idea is that Christ seeks to change people from the inside out, not the other way around. Because He is God, He can enter into somebody’s life from the inside and change their hearts. That is what is necessary for anyone to feel reprieve from their stress, worry, fear or whatever. A misconception is that Christ is like a genie who, when you pray to Him, will grant every prayer to come true. He knows what is best for everyone, including all the Japanese who think their lives need to end. I don’t believe in a God who thinks that people should end their lives.

The thought of people just living their lives wondering if there is something greater that cares for them is hard to take in. Many people in America could care less about God-I understand that. And it would be hard for them to take in the thought that somebody is shoving religion down people’s throats in Japan. Christians do believe in a God who has revealed Himself as the only way to salvation. But He doesn’t provide just salvation-my God changes people while on Earth. And he changes them without religion-anyone can receive Christ as their personal savior. That’s what Japan needs to know.


    • From JPN 301 :D on Thursday, November 6, 2008 at 1:15 AM

    After reading your comments, it sounds like you have very good motivations. The high suicide rate in Japan is indeed sad, but there are a few things I’m concerned about… I’ll start from the most specific and move to the most general.

    Your last paragraph mentions that you can be changed, and accept jesus without religion. That’s understandable – the teachings of jesus are quite secular in nature, and in many respects are good basic laws of interpersonal conduct. However to talk someone out of suicide – to appeal to their deepest feelings about their life and their place in society – I’m not sure that can be done simply by introducing them to some principles. I’m also not sure Christianity itself would help the majority of them either (though in some cases it very well might).

    The reasons for my above statement lie in both the reasons for the high suicide rate in Japan and the traditional Japanese conception of culture and society. Why would people end their own life? There are of course, many reasons. But, in Japan, from what I have read and witnessed on the subject, the primary reason is work-related stress. That’s deceptive, however. Nothing like work is ever -personal- in Japan, as I’m sure you well know. Even if a Japanese was to accept Christ as their savior, as you say, would that help them when it came to their responsibility to their family? If they were to feel as though they had failed those to whom they were responsible, is it not the most acceptable thing culturally to atone with one’s life? This is changing, of course, but it is hard to change culture and tradition. Do you think Christianity is the proper medium for this kind of change? How can a religion which is often very personal because of it’s low acceptance in Japan change one’s relations with society? And I will bet you that the reasons for the suicide rate are very seldom personal issues in the same sense as they might be in America.

    Furthermore, the very reason for that low acceptance of Christianity in Japan, or at least the highly morphed recognition of it that does exist – again, as I’m sure you have realized, lies in their very perception of ‘god’ and ‘spirituality’. In Europe, religions have always clashed. You are one or the other. But in Japan, many people profess Buddhism, and yet practice Shinto as well, and to a lesser extent might even hold some Christian values or go to a Christian school and sing hymns. God as an entity which is singular and almighty who demands our absolute love, and many other aspects of the god which Christianity recognizes is a very strange conception in that cultural context – I know it is a very strange conception for me. Can you overcome this when you spread Christianity there?

    There is no great difference between Westerners and Asians as humans which prevents them from acquiring each other’s cultures and values, but just as culture in the West has permitted and in turn been shaped by the development of Christianity as an organized religion, so the East has been shaped by its absence and the development of other religions and philosophies. At this very late date, that poses a lot of problems for your goals.

    I urge you to think again about what you want to do for Japanese people, why you want to do it, and what kind of effect you really think that it will have.

    • Josh Morgan on Thursday, November 6, 2008 at 1:23 PM

    I wanted to thank you for leaving your comment for this post (which may be, for better or for worse, considered somewhat of a controversial post). I wanted to affirm you for having written a comment that’s clean, informative and honest.

    I had a few thoughts on what you wrote. I do agree with one of the first things you wrote-I also don’t think people can be talked out of suicide by introducing them to principles. I think that’s kind of the idea behind suicide prevention/counseling groups, though, so maybe it does work for some people. But that’s why I said that people need to receive Jesus, who will change them from the inside. If somebody had a true change of heart, they wouldn’t want to commit suicide.

    Imagine this simple scenario. Somebody spills a drink at a university dining hall on the floor. It’s a fairly large spill that obstructs a path that people frequently walk by. Inevitably, somebody tripped. So after seeing that, the management puts a yellow caution/wet floor sign near it. A person walks by and still slips and falls. So the management places another yellow sign on another side of the spill. Again, somebody falls. This time, the get a black permanent marker and outline the spill on the floor. Basically, they’re making it very obvious that there’s a spill there. However, people still slip and fall.

    The problem is that the management was doing a lot of external actions to try to prevent people from slipping. However, it would have been better for the management to simply have taken a few paper towels and wiped it up. They wouldn’t need signs, or anything because the problem would be fixed. They would be going directly to the source of the problem. My contention is that people commit suicide because they have a problem within themselves. Whenever we try to do external things, like counseling or anything else, it will help the problem for a time. But it won’t permanently fix it. We have to go directly to the source.

    The problem is, we can’t change somebody’s heart attitude. Principles won’t change it. It has to be something/someone who has that ability. Our hearts are sinful. It’s because Jesus died for our sins that his presence in our life is what we need to change the condition. Christianity works from the inside out. If it is to have an effect on the society, it would have to start by coming from an individual. Change can start in a society with one person, I believe.

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