Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Japan in the news

Sadly shocking--

Japan's high rate of suicide (2nd in the world, after Russia) is now more than 30,000 deaths a year. The subject has surfaced again due to the recent suicides of Toshikatsu Matsuoka (Japan's Agriculture Minister) and executive Shinichi Yamazaki. Their "honorable" ways of dying (hanging & jumping out of a window) to atone for their public disgrace are considered acceptable according to Japanese tradition, to restore their honor. (In the past, it was to take responsibility for failings in feudal Japan.)

"In this country, it is difficult to live without belonging to a group, and once you fall out there is hardly a chance to go back in," says Yasuyuki Shimizu, a representative of Life Link (a nonprofit organization providing support for suicide prevention). He also blames the lack of flexibility and diversity in schools and companies, where the unorthodox or people with personal troubles can be ostracized.

It is so strange to think that a country as modern as Japan still has such deeply rooted traditions. Again, I bring up the word in Japanese for "different" is the same as "wrong", and it is instilled into children from the day they are born. Even though there are obvious exceptions to the rule, it still is deeply disturbing to me that acts such as suicide are still honored as respectable while spouses, families, and their community have to deal with the aftermath.

However, in happier (?) news, 20 year old Miss Japan, Riyo Mori, was crowned Miss Universe 2007! It is only the 2nd time that Japan has won this title (1st time was in 1959). Poor Miss USA Rachel Smith slipped and fell to the ground during the evening gown competition... and was jeered by the Mexican audience. Ouch...


Paul said...

I agree, the "honorable" way to go in Japan is bound to leave families with a sense of guilty, grief, and sheer agony. When you try to save face you end up losing everything else.

Beauty contests are another ridiculous tradition, if you ask me. Most of the winners are fugly anyways.

Sono said...

In this country, suicide is considered cowardly and selfish (Tragic to say the least) People that come to America from Japan bring that tradition with them, as I used to work for a Japanese restaurant where the Owners were from Japan. Nice family of 4 (2) young children (at the time). The husband ended up having an affair with one of the waitresses and the wife ended up killing herself due to the disgrace that he bestowed upon her. Really tragic since the kids were very young and probably didn't understand why this happened. They were too young to implement this tradition into their heads yet. It was even hard for me to comprehend since life to most of us is not worth ending, especially over someone elses idiocy.