Tuesday, May 29, 2007
Japan in the news
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...