08/20/2015, 00.00
Send to a friend

Japan’s high rate of youth suicide due to society’s excessive focus on economic performance

A government study found that 18,048 underage Japanese committed suicide between 1972 and 2013. Trouble at home, academic failure, concerns about career choices, mental illness and depression emerge as the major contributing factors. The curriculum is centred on scientific disciplines. In Japan, the Christian concept of the person tends to be trumped by that of community. Fr Cazzaniga, a PIME missionary in Japan, gives his thoughts on the matter.

Tokyo (AsiaNews) – Since Japan “gave up under Article 9 of the constitution the right to have Armed Forces for offensive purposes, at least for now, the government has heavily focused on the developing the country’s economy and its human resources. Indeed, economic growth has been premised on training a highly skilled workforce.”

“Getting a top-notch education remains the priority for students. However, this has come at a price, namely a high level of suicide among young people who fail to meet society’s expectations,” said Fr Pino Cazzaniga, a missionary with the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME) in Japan, who spoke to AsiaNews about the alarmingly high number of suicides among young people in the country.

"Considering that students in primary and high schools also get extracurricular tutoring in the afternoon after regular school hours in order to be admitted to the best schools, it is easy to understand how economics drive education policy rather than concern for students’ souls,” he explained.

His views are backed by a recent survey released by the Cabinet Office’s survey, which recorded 18.048 cases of suicide, between 1971 and 2013, involving minors below the age of 18 from, the Kyodo news agency reported.

The study shows that most suicides occur around the end of Japanese spring and summer holidays, with a peak of 131 suicides on 1 September.

If the total number of deaths were spread evenly throughout every day of the year, there should have only been 49 deaths.

The date with the second-highest number of suicides is 11 April with 99, followed by 8 April, 2 September and 31 August 31 with 95, 94 and 92 suicides respectively.

Government surveys found that a major reason for suicides among elementary and junior high school students is trouble at home, among children who might be scolded or who have friction with their parents.

Among high school students, academic failure, concerns about career choices, mental illness and depression emerge as the major contributing factors, the surveys said.

Based on his own experience in the country, Fr Cazzaniga knows this all too well. Japan has one of the highest levels of literacy, and about 80 per cent of students get a post-secondary education. However, "educational programs stress science over humanities since education is driven by the needs of the economy. Kids are trained in order to boost the country’s development,” he said.

For the PIME missionary, the country’s cultural and religious traditions, based on Shinto and Buddhism, influence the way society looks at people.

"Japan’s cultural tradition is very different from that of Europe where, thanks to Christianity, the individual is respected as a person, where youth problems are discussed in the family so that they can address them together.”

“Here there is no concept of the soul. Ancestor worship is important and so is belonging to a group as a community. Since education is economically driven, young people’s spiritual education gets lost in the shuffle.”

Send to a friend
Printable version
See also
Church leads the way in helping Vietnam cope with its educational emergency
11/03/2016 17:00
First case of health care workers contracting new SARS from patients in Saudi hospital
New, asymptomatic bird flu cases
COVID-19 and education: a catastrophic situation in India
17/09/2021 17:34
Pope: peace is built by educating to respect and care for the needy and creation
17/12/2020 13:08


Subscribe to Asia News updates or change your preferences

Subscribe now
“L’Asia: ecco il nostro comune compito per il terzo millennio!” - Giovanni Paolo II, da “Alzatevi, andiamo”