Japan is a conundrum. It has one of the lowest officially recognised rates of depression in the world. But it has a higher suicide rate than any rich nation except Belgium – and only 15 other countries have a worse problem. Suicide is the leading cause of death among Japanese children aged 10-19.
One suggested cause is the huge pressure placed on children to get top marks at school. Another is the strong group culture: children who are different or do not comply with the rules are ritual targets for bullies. Furthermore, suicide is seen differently in Japan, certainly compared to western nations.
Unlike Christian countries, suicide is not a sin in Confucian Japan – sometimes it is considered to be for worthy reasons. This attitude is rooted in the ancient Samurai, warriors who killed themselves by committing seppuku (or harakiri) when they lost in battle, to show devotion to a dead leader, or to protest against the military or government. This suicide-by-another-name was regarded as a demonstration of bravery and honour.