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Anonymous Group Suicide in Japan
October 10, 2007 8:52 AM   Subscribe

Why is anonymous group suicide so popular in Japan? From 2003 through 2005, 180 people died in 61 reported cases of Internet-assisted group suicide in Japan . . . All but two of these cases have proceeded according to a common blueprint: The victims meet online, using anonymous screen names, and then take sleeping pills and use briquettes, charcoal burners, and tape to turn a car or van into a mobile gas chamber.
posted by jason's_planet (33 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
This was one of the plot things in Paranoia Agent.
posted by delmoi at 8:55 AM on October 10, 2007


Also in Suicide Club, which I found highly disturbing. I thought I was renting Battle Royale!
posted by Xere at 9:02 AM on October 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


Not such a mystery, really. The grim truth is that killing yourself is much harder than many people think it is, and using the buddy system can help clear any number of hurdles.
posted by psmealey at 9:02 AM on October 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


Sounds like a job for Section 9.
posted by butterstick at 9:09 AM on October 10, 2007 [3 favorites]


My favorite part of the article:
Takaya Shiomi looks on from the stage in disapproval. Now in his 60s, with salt-and-pepper hair and the benevolent-seeming, steely gaze of a proletarian dictator, Shiomi is the former commander of the Red Army Faction, a terrorist group that styled itself as the Japanese arm of the worldwide Marxist revolution. In 1970, under Shiomi’s leadership, members of the group hijacked a plane to North Korea; . . . Having spent two decades in jail, Shiomi lives quietly in the outer suburbs of Tokyo. He rests his chin on his knuckles, as the counterculture speakers address their favorite themes of self-mutilation and suicide.

“Who the hell are you people?” Shiomi finally spits out, grabbing the microphone. “I know that life is hard. I was young once, too. It’s easy to become a nihilist, and to care about nothing, and to think that everything is shit. The ultimate answer to that kind of thinking is jail. If you want to feel good about your life, you need to do something real! Understand the world! Study ideology!”
posted by jason's_planet at 9:10 AM on October 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


It's a sad place.

The Internet, I mean. Japan is still cool.
posted by dead_ at 9:12 AM on October 10, 2007


Lesson one, apply the shaving cream
and smile as you then slowly slice away the heart.
posted by stinkycheese at 9:20 AM on October 10, 2007 [2 favorites]


It's difficult to go it alone when your group mentality is so indoctrinated.

I love this country, and have clearly (after 13 years, permanent residency and a mortgage) made it my home...but this is one aspect that still frustrates me with frequency.

I'm not free enough of my own demons to say I can't fathom the desire to escape, but I just cannot comprehend not wanting to face something so private on my own.
posted by squasha at 9:54 AM on October 10, 2007


There have been several Japanese movies out where the ghosts get lonely and persuade the living to join them. One of the popular ways to join the Ghost Squad was to go off on a vacation with friends and then inside the room, the charcoal would be used to snuff em on home to the living dead.
posted by doctorschlock at 9:58 AM on October 10, 2007


From a mile up we're all merely cells in a larger organism.
posted by mullingitover at 10:09 AM on October 10, 2007


Jason, you totally stole my idea for the next NYC meetup!!
posted by hermitosis at 10:12 AM on October 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


Also somewhat similar to the plot of the 2001 film Kairo (aka Pulse). The stuff about tape and plastic bags, in particular.
posted by anazgnos at 10:30 AM on October 10, 2007


Count me out of that one, hermitosis.

Japan is definitely culturally more group-oriented than we are, though that doesn't preclude such cases happening in the US. The numbers just seem to be fewer, and they aren't very widely reported when they do happen. I've seen some local press stories to this effect, but they tend to die down (no pun intended) quickly.
posted by cmgonzalez at 10:40 AM on October 10, 2007


Metafilter: Instead of spending their time in prayer, or listening to sad music, or reading novels, or knitting, or taking care of too many cats, vulnerable and unstable members of society are socialized into virtual communities whose shared vocabulary and values become an antidote to loneliness, even as they propel their members toward death.
posted by designbot at 10:43 AM on October 10, 2007 [14 favorites]


Instead of spending their time in prayer, or listening to sad music, or reading novels, or knitting, or taking care of too many cats...

It's not mutually exclusive, okay?? I CAN DO ALL THAT AND METAFILTER TOO.
posted by hermitosis at 10:56 AM on October 10, 2007


...and had met online for the purpose of dying together in a car.

I've made a lot of good friends that way.
posted by thatswherebatslive at 12:26 PM on October 10, 2007


or taking care of too many cats

Are they LOLcats?
posted by cmgonzalez at 12:27 PM on October 10, 2007


All these troubled, Japanese, internet-trawling souls need to trade their seppuku for some sudoku.
posted by Curry at 12:33 PM on October 10, 2007


Sad to read about hopelessness and despair. Poignant and understandable that those, who were likely isolated and lonely in their despair, wanted company on the way out.

Have contemplated suicide a number of times over the years and can see the sense in euthanising oneself in untreatable illness-end of life. Glad for those, who have made the well thought out decision, there is Dignitas.

Interesting charcoal briquets are used as part of the process. They're so associated with barbecues, a different kind of group gathering. Death by carbon monoxide poisoning.

Experienced carbon monoxide poisoning 4 years ago, the building's boiler malfunctioned. Not fun after effects.

From your link: The Perfect Suicide Manual, a book by Wataru Tsurumi, a Tokyo University graduate and publishing-industry dropout. Tsurumi is an obsessive who professes a Nabokovian indifference to the consequences of publishing his work. In a culture where conformity is expected and geeks have a surprising amount of cultural power, he is a charismatic figure who has attained the kind of celebrity status usually reserved in Japan for pop stars or cartoon characters.

Hope, joie de vivre and feisty will to live are not in fashion these days. Death, with all the images of skulls on everything, including really young kids' toys, is trendy.

Hard as it can be, I like life and enjoy living. I feel sorry for those who gave up but I don't know their stories and want to respect their need to make an exit.

Nothing like having late stage cancer to feel that waking up in the morning really is a gift and I intend to savor it while I can.
posted by nickyskye at 12:49 PM on October 10, 2007 [3 favorites]


At least these Japanese kids have the good sense not to hurt anyone but themselves.
posted by brevator at 12:59 PM on October 10, 2007


/derail

omg brevator, that's horrible news. Yikes. "the gunman may have been a 14-year-old student". Seems to be a spate of group shootings going on this month.
posted by nickyskye at 1:05 PM on October 10, 2007


Yeah. It looks like he didn't kill anyone (other than himself), and that all the injured are stable. When it comes to events like this, that passes for good.
posted by brevator at 1:20 PM on October 10, 2007


Years ago, reading some autobiographical material from Hideki Yukawa, the great nuclear physicist and Japan's first Nobelist, I was shocked and chilled to see in his description of the situation in Japan at the end of WWII, after it was became undeniable that Japan would lose, completely casual and apparently accepting references to the Honorable Death of the Hundred Million:

In April 1945, Admiral Kantaro Suzuki was chosen to replace Koiso. The "Fundamental Policy" of Suzuki's government was to fight on and to choose "honorable death of the hundred million" over surrender.

Yukawa made it clear the plan was for a national version of Jonestown, not something that would happen in battle.
posted by jamjam at 1:21 PM on October 10, 2007


Yeah, jamjam , that is shocking. I only learned of that recently and am still stunned about it. "honorable death of the hundred million". Strange, that while advocating such a vast suicide he "was opposed to Japan's war with the United States, before and throughout World War II" and "contributed to the final peace negotiations with the Allied Powers in World War II"

He was anti-war, pro-mass suicide. In favor of peace, while advocating the ultimate personal annihilation. Am bewildered by that.
posted by nickyskye at 1:59 PM on October 10, 2007


Jason, you totally stole my idea for the next NYC meetup!!

(rimshot)

Hope, joie de vivre and feisty will to live are not in fashion these days. . .

Hard as it can be, I like life and enjoy living.


Good! I'm glad to hear that it's in fashion with you, nickyskye.
posted by jason's_planet at 2:19 PM on October 10, 2007


There seems to be an inherent bias against suicide. Probably because some people mistakenly make the decision there is no other way to deal with their issues; be that depression, illness, being buried under heaping piles of crap, etc.

But, for those who have made a rational decision, what do we say? Is it best for them to make sure it’s done “right”, or, instead, to make a sincere attempt that fails and leaves them stuck in some incapacitated state. After that, we can then look on and say “I wouldn’t blame them for wanting to die.” And, feel no guilt?

Have you seen a pet/wild creature injured so badly that the decision is to “put it down”? You do that out of empathy and pity, or fill in your own thoughts here, for it’s situation. A human creature is different, How? The human has physical and psychological components. I think when the decision is based on a physical issue we have an easier time of making the determination; yet, when it’s a psychic issue, we get clouded.

For example: I do think that I am not capable of helping another commit suicide. Yet, I have been involved in making the decision to discontinue life support. It is a related, but different decision, based on physical evidence and the projection “what would they want, what is right for them”. Hopefully, helping someone commit suicide is not a simple decision – but where do you draw the line? What is right for them? How do you ever really know/judge? I can see situations where people's existence is so horrible that suicide is not surprising. What is sometimes surprising is that the suicide option isn't taken more often.
posted by mightshould at 2:28 PM on October 10, 2007


Thanks :)

Do you suppose taking anti-depressants may be frowned up in Japan and that's why this is happening?

My favorite movie is Shawshank Redemption (a mini-hope clip). I love it when he says, "Hope is a good thing." (and I have a crush on Morgan Freeman).
posted by nickyskye at 2:30 PM on October 10, 2007


ps That thanks was for Jason.

And now reading your comment mightshould, those are such good points. Survival is hard wired, in spite of and maybe because of great suffering endured to exist, it seems appropriate that suicide, assisted suicide or euthanasia are to be considered carefully.
posted by nickyskye at 2:40 PM on October 10, 2007


Yes, nickyskye, that's such a key comment: Survival is hard wired. Which is why it's so hard to understand suicide from the outside.
posted by mightshould at 2:49 PM on October 10, 2007


nickyskye writes "Do you suppose taking anti-depressants may be frowned up in Japan and that's why this is happening?"

Japanese have a general dislike of mood-altering medicines, compared with the US.
posted by Bugbread at 2:15 AM on October 11, 2007


There seems to be an inherent bias against suicide.

But, for those who have made a rational decision, what do we say? Is it best for them to make sure it’s done “right”, or, instead, to make a sincere attempt that fails and leaves them stuck in some incapacitated state.
posted by mightshould at 2:28 PM on October 10


this seems to me to be a couple of the critical elements of any discussion of suicide.

1) whose life is it and who are we to decide for them what is right?

2) a good death is one that leads to death and to not an infirmity that has left them in a state far worse than they were.

to which i add a third; it is not at all unreasonable that those who are about to die would want to have someone else, preferably a friend or loved one, in attendance with them at the end for comfort and solace.

A Euthanasia Clinic would provide a place where a Compassionate Law could be implemented allowing people to choose the time, place, and manner of their own death while in the company and companionship of their friends, family, and loved ones.


EuthanasiaClinic.com
posted by altman at 5:43 AM on October 11, 2007


Altman, I just have to say, that that link is full of some well intentioned sounding, but ultimately flawed reasoning.
Imagine that it were your child, your parent, your wife, or your lover that were encouraging you to die. Their love is either unqualified and meant to ease your mind or it is entirely selfish. If the latter, would you really want to continue to live with people like that around you...?
This type of reasoning is pretty symptomatic of depression, in my experience. And, depression, in my experience, is transitory. Furthermore, all of these arguments fail to address the idea that all people are connected and that a tragic death, especially suicide, can have ramifications and create significant suffering and confusion in others many social degrees of separation away from the victim. This type of "Ends Justify the Means" reasoning presupposes that we have a crystal ball that can determine the ultimate sum of good versus suffering we create with any action. However, there is a load of tangible evidence that shows that untimely death and suicide causes ripples of grief throughout communities.

"Who's life is it?" is an intriguing question that is ultimately unanswerable. As sympathetic as I am to freedom of body, there are many completely valid ethical arguments to be made that we have a responsibility that extends beyond our own self. No man is an island.
posted by Skwirl at 6:20 PM on October 11, 2007


Skwirl states: there is a load of tangible evidence that shows that untimely death and suicide causes ripples of grief throughout communities.

I would amend that to say that in some cases this it true. However, there are other cases when death or suicide does not produce a ripple of grief. While situations that are not our own cannot be judged by our yardstick, I see circumstances when death is a relief. Not all who seek a way out are depressed, or following evidence of flawed reasoning.
posted by mightshould at 6:10 AM on October 12, 2007


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