An 11-year-old boy has stunned Japan by throwing himself under a train in an effort to prevent the imminent closure of his school, pleading in his suicide note for the merger to be cancelled.
The 11-year-old threw himself in front of a speeding express service at an Osaka station one afternoon, and died instantly despite the best efforts of the driver to brake.
The boy, who died in his school uniform and left his rucksack on the platform, left little doubt as to the reasons for his suicide – he left a note in his bag saying “please, in exchange for my little life, cancel the school merger.”
According to the local education authority, the Osaka elementary school he attended was due to close in April, as part of a plan to merge it with another local school.
In days prior he had reportedly been complaining that “nobody listens to our feelings when our school is about to be destroyed” and asking that the merger be cancelled.
He also emailed his 47-year-old mother telling her he loved her just prior to his death – although she seems to display an admirable sense of responsibility in her response:
“It is regrettable that I didn’t appreciate the extent of my son’s feelings. I don’t want other children to think they can change the world through suicide, though.”
Japan Rail reports 32 trains were delayed by the boy’s death, inconveniencing some 14,000 commuters. They do not say whether they will follow their occasional practice of billing the family of the bereaved for the disruption.
Even against the backdrop of Japan’s excessively rich suicide culture, the notion of a schoolboy killing himself to protest a school merger has struck many Japanese as being as absurd as it is disturbing:
“What a thing to give your life for.”
“And by killing himself he actually hastened his school’s closure…”
“This is crazy…”
“I can’t help but think there was a parenting issue here.”
“There must be something more to this?”
“Does a 5th elementary schooler bother about this stuff? Was he influenced by something?”
“Only the adults around him could possibly have caused him to do this.”
“Who kills themselves over this nonsense? It’s absurd.”
“The mass media do tend to affirm this kind of suicide terrorism rather than condemn it, though.”
“Actually this kid was smart – he realised kids killing themselves always exerts a big influence, and tried to use his own death to accomplish what he wanted.”
“By stopping 32 trains he did at least change the world in a big way.”
“You’d think the parents or teachers were the ones putting ideas in his head, as no kid is going to care about this stuff that much otherwise.”
“Possibly if the teachers were really making a fuss about the merger?”
“What kind of kid writes ‘my little life’ anyway? He was put up to this.”
“He wrote ‘merger’ in hiragana. You’d think he’d at least know the right kanji for that?”
“Right. Feels like someone had him write that.”
“You’d think he was born in the Meiji or Taisho eras, not Heisei.”
“Probably just the school making a huge fuss and giving the kids the impression it would be the end of the world if the school closed.”
“His mother is too cruel. She just denied his dying wish completely. I blame the family.”
“Hey brat, you just inconvenienced 14,000 people with your dumb little stunt!”
“What were those teachers up to…”
“This is moronic. This kid didn’t even realise nobody would go along with this? Who in their right mind is going to start giving in to the demands people make in their suicide notes? I’m surprised at how on the mark his mother is under the circumstances.”
“Well, there is no way they can stop the merger now. It would just give more little kids the delusion that they can top themselves and blackmail people into going along with their selfish little wants.”