Japan’s total suicides in 2012 dropped below 30,000 for the first time in 15 years, according to official statistics – dropping by some 9%.
According to police suicide statistics, in 2012 a mere 27,7766 Japanese decided to kill themselves, down 2,885 (9.4%) on the previous year, and the first time in 15 years that the number has dropped below 30,000.
From 1978 to 1997 the annual toll hovered around 25,000, but in 1998 it rose above 30,000 for the first time (in the recorded post-war period at least), and had appeared to show no signs of dropping.
The breakdown by gender in 2012 was 19,216 men (down 1,739) and 8,550 women (down 1,146) – it is also the first time in 15 years that less than 20,000 men have killed themselves.
Japan’s population has been dropping slightly in recent years, but by nowhere near 9.4%, suggesting more complex causes are involved – although certain doubts also linger about the ability of Japan’s police to come to an accurate count in the first place, particularly when it comes to dealing with murders and disappearances.
Unsurprisingly, it was the areas with the highest populations which saw the most suicides – Tokyo (2,760), followed by Osaka (1,720) and Kanagawa (1,624).
The dreadful distinction of being the most suicidal place in Japan goes to Yamanashi prefecture, which with a rate of 32.4 suicides per 100,000 has had the worst suicide rate of any prefecture in Japan for the past 6 years (in contrast, the least suicidal prefecture was Kyoto, closely followed by Kanagawa).
Although not an especially dismal location even by the standards of rural backwaters, Yamanashi prefecture also includes the “Sea of Trees” (or Aokigahara), an especially dense and notoriously silent forest at the foot of Mount Fuji which has the ghastly distinction of being Tokyo’s preferred suicide spot (at least if the capital’s trains are not counted as one location).
The prefecture is desperately trying to expunge the reputation, even going so far as to ban movies and TV shows from using Aokigahara as a location for suicides.