-- Glued to a computer screen in his north Tokyo apartment, the stocky, part-time sushi delivery man spent weeks
searching the recesses of the Internet. Going simply by the handle "Murata," the 28-year-old surfed for online
companions harboring his same dark interest: the desire to die.|
|He found what he was looking for on a host of new Japanese-language
Web sites such as "Underground Suicide" and "Deadline." Promising to supply most of the materials,
he made arrangements to kill himself with two anonymous Internet friends on a mid-May afternoon.
Face to face for the first time, the three young men drove to a tranquil mountain pass six
hours north of Tokyo. They shared sleeping pills, and then -- following detailed instructions
posted on a Web site -- set charcoal alight inside their car and died from carbon monoxide poisoning.|
|The deaths of the three men marked only one
incident in an extraordinary string of Internet suicides to hit Japan. Over the past six months,
police investigators say at least 32 people -- mostly in their teens and twenties -- have killed
themselves nationwide after meeting strangers online. Many more young Japanese have entered into
online suicide pacts, but either failed in their attempts or backed out at the last minute.|
|Psychiatrists and suicide experts are linking
the phenomenon to a profound national identity crisis during Japan's 13-year economic funk. Indeed, the
Internet deaths come at a time when Japan is undergoing an alarming surge in its overall suicide rate --
with financial problems cited as the fastest growing reason for despair....|
|The majority of the 20 males and 12 females who killed
themselves after linking up on these sites came from Japan's "lost generation" -- people in their
teens and twenties who have come of age in a less secure, less confident society.
Japan today is nation where unemployment and homelessness have soared, and companies --
long the pillars of society -- no longer offer workers the promise of a job for life.
The new realties have put added stress on families, sending the divorce rate steadily higher.|
|Given the changes, experts say, many young
adults in the world's second-largest economy have become dangerously cynical about their futures.
"They are lost and confused. The long-held direction and goals of Japanese society are collapsing around them,"
said Rika Kayama, a Tokyo psychiatrist who has studied the Internet suicide phenomenon.
"Japanese adults used to be able to say to their children that if you try very hard at school or at work,
you'll see the rewards. But adults can no longer say that, because in many ways, it is no longer true."|
|That confusion has manifested itself in a number
of new societal ills. As many as 1 million Japanese, mostly young men in their twenties,
have withdrawn from society altogether, becoming "shut-ins" [Ed note: "hikikomori"] inside their parents' homes for
six months to several years.|
|The news media are also decrying an increase in
or the "snapping" of youths. Last month, several middle-class high school boys murdered a mutual friend
after a minor disagreement. There seemed to be little real hate in the act -- the boys even stopped to
share a refreshment with their friend before dealing him the killing blows....|
"Internet Suicides Plague Japan: Young People Make Death Pacts With Strangers",
The Washington Post, 24Aug03, p.A01.|