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Buddhist Monk Confronts Japan's Suicide Culture

Alarmed by a rise in people jumping to their deaths in front of trains, Japanese railway operators are installing special blue lights above station platforms they hope will have a soothing effect and reduce suicides, Oct. 14, 2009. (Itsuo Inouye/AP)
Alarmed by a rise in people jumping to their deaths in front of trains, Japanese railway operators are installing special blue lights above station platforms they hope will have a soothing effect and reduce suicides, Oct. 14, 2009. (Itsuo Inouye/AP)

Japan’s suicide rate is twice that of the United States. More than 30,000 people a year kill themselves in Japan.

So many people jump in front of subway trains that when a train stops between stations, people just assume it’s a suicide.

A Buddhist monk, Ittetsu Nemoto, decided he wanted to do something about that. He now works with depressed Japanese people who make the journey to his temple.

Larissa MacFarquhar, a staff writer for The New Yorker, wrote about Nemoto in a recent issue.

“There’s a sense that he and a few other priests are trying to help people rethink this choice, to think that suicide is not a good choice,” MacFarquhar said. “Even though suffering may be ennobling, suicide is not.”

Guest:

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