The Suicide Trend

Japan's soaring suicide rate, which increased by 35 per-cent in 1998 over the previous year to total more than 32,000 deaths, appears to be linked to the stresses of economic restructuring upon Japanese men. A survey by Tokyo's centrist daily Yomiuri Shimbun finds that "as the nation has been experiencing a pro-longed recession and other social woes, about 70 percent of people have felt subject to stress," compared with about 62 percent in 1996.

"Japan is perhaps the only country in the world where suicide is considered an honorable act," writes Edwin Karmiol for Rome's international news agency Inter Press Service, "but even the Japanese are becoming alarmed at the steep rise in the number of people taking their own lives .... Indeed, many Japanese regard suicide as a show of sincerity to expiate their shortcomings," he writes. One controversial book, The Perfect Suicide Manual by Wataru Tsurumi, has been on Japan's bestseller list for five years.