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Japan and the suicide issue
The year of 2012 Japan had one of the highest suicide rates in the world. People often wonder what is so bad that makes suicide is the only answer, especially in such a developed country like Japan where most people seem to fit into the middle class region.
Train delays due to suicide are rather common and not only does it affect that particular line, it affects all connecting stations and causes huge delays, especially when you think about big stations such as Shinjuku which has around 3.5 million passengers a day.
To some, suicide may seem like a way out or "to escape" and is the last resort.
The reasons for suicide
One of the main causes most people would say is employment. Long gone are the days of the Japanese bubble economy from the sixties. In those days Japan and a life long employment system, where graduates would enter an occupation and be guaranteed life long work with good benefits, bonuses annual increases etc. This system made life comfortable for the average Japanese and we naturally in the so called "Middle class" even though Japanese doesn't really have social class systems. From the 1960's due to US military protection, Japanese were able to ignore military spending and put more money into budgeting the economy. After the stock exchange crash in 1990-92 this bubble came in and end and thousands were out of work. There is also the earthquake in 2010 which affected a lot of people even in the Tokyo area.
The way of thinking for many Japanese is "the end of your job is the end of your life". People would be devastated by losing a career that was so much of a part of their lives. Most people in other countries would just accept it and try their best to find a new job as soon as they can or enroll for unemployed benefit, however in Japan, pride comes into play. Certain people may not want to accept a change in career or a reduction in salary, even if it were only temporary. Suicide is sadly the only option here for some.
Illness - People have been known to commit suicide due to an illness that has no long term cure for. There are even people who have killed themselves due skin conditions such as eczema. In Japan eczema can be very severe due to the humid summers and the dry winters, affected people don't really have time for their skin to repair.
Bullying - It is very sad to hear that some school students have taken their own lives due to excessive bullying. It's unfortunate that nobody recognizes this at the time in order to get some help or counselling. Bullying is still a big issue in many Japanese schools with kids at least thinking about suicide at some time.
One of the most common and easiest for many people in jumping in front of trains. In order to prevent this, many underground station have the electronic doors and barriers infront of the track. These doors will only open once the train is present. Jumping from buildings is also rather common and is very difficult to prevent since it is often from their own residence or work place. There are many other methods people will use but the above will probably be the most common since it is certain death. Recently there have even been underground groups on the internet for people wishing to commit suicide. Members will normally gather to conduct plans and methods, leaders of these groups have been arrested and imprisoned when discovered.
Fortunately there are many helplines and support groups in Japan for poeople who are depressed enough to consider suicide.
In order to deal with these issues and prevent them from happening, train companies actually fine the victims' family for loses due to the delay of the train. A suicide incident can put a train off the schedule for the majority of the day while they clean up and sort things out. Not only does it affect that line, but other connecting trains also. The amounts can add up to millions of yen which the family may have to cover. However as mentioned previously there are other methods which people may choose which doesn't cause a nuisance to others.