My sweetie is taking a short trip to Taiwan with her mother. She doesn’t get many days off each month, so I only see her about once a week normally. Squeezing four days together to go on a trip means I won’t get to see her as much this month. So, she’ll be coming by to see me for a little bit tonight on her way (or a little out of the way) to her parents’ place. Yay! This means, I can only make a short post today, but I think it is a sad topic.
At one of my schools the Principal was talking to a specialist who comes in to work with troubled students. I was trying to be polite and not listen in, but I caught a few words about a private school, bullying, teachers not noticing or correcting troubles, and a few other points. After they stopped chatting, the specialist addressed me directly and asked, “You have suicide in America also, don’t you?” This took me a little by surprise because I thought I would have noticed that word in the prior conversation. Based on all the points I did hear, though, I’m guessing we had a tragedy in our prefecture.
On the bright side, the people near me seemed genuinely interested in discussing the topic from an open perspective. Japanese society is often criticized for avoiding unpleasant topics, but that was not a concern this time. I have heard that the suicide rate here is about double England’s and 50% more than America’s. That’s a substantial difference, and one which I’ve pondered more than once. In general Christianity frowns upon the taking of life, and specifically the Catholic church labels suicide as an unforgivable action that will prevent one getting into Heaven (not that scripture would support that, but that’s a separate issue). As far as I have heard, Japanese Buddhism and the Shinto faith, don’t really address the issue. This must have some impact on the numbers. Also, for hundreds of years, there was a systematic process to cut open one’s own belly to restore face (harakiri 腹切・seppuku 切腹). Many foreigners are baffled by the concepts involved in being restored after great shame or dishonor; however, culturally this must have some lingering effects since the practice ended during the last generation, so it is still pretty recent.
I hope I am mistaken about what transpired, but I am thankful there are educators and caregivers who are interested in identifying troubles and helping children through them.