Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

Shibuya Toyoko Line I ended the work day with a study group and an expert guest where we discussed the Japanese legal system. Although there were some small signs of hope, I find that the more I learn about how things really work, the more pessimistic I get about causing actual change in Japan.

As I pondered the futility of revolutionary activities in Japan, I jogged to try to catch the train to connect to the commuter train for my 1.5 hr shlep back to my home. As I entered the station, I noticed an unusually large crowd of people on the platform.

The PA system announced a delay due to an accident. Japan has over 30,000 suicides a year (one of the highest rates in the world) and 800 or so of them as a result of “train accidents”. As I crammed myself into the standing-room-only train full of drunken businessmen, tired “office ladies” and shriveled old people, I thought about what kind of person might have jumped in front of the train this time.

As we approached the station where the accident occurred, the train came to a stop and the conductor apologized again for the delay. They shut down the motors as we waited and the everyone was silent and still. As I looked around at the tired people with their blank looks, it felt like we were all involuntarily mourning the death of another person in Japanese society who had to give up.

When I arrived at at my home train station, Mizuka was there to pick me up. I shared my depressing thoughts and she scolded me for being so down. When we got home, our dog Pookie yapped away and almost blew these thoughts away, but I decided to share them with you anyway.


First off change never happens over night and it's people like you fighting for change, again and again resulting in change! I bet if you would get a dollar from every life you have changed for the better trough your actions you would be a rich man.

there is always a good and bad side to almost everything. would it be better for one to kill himself than to be shooting everyone else? think about it.

it's getting really cold here in japan.

Darren, of course it's better to off yourself than go on a killing spree, especially in one of those crowded rush hour trains in Tokyo... But the Japanese, if I can group us all in one big stereotyped lump (and I know I can't...), are just not like that in general. Passive agressive is more the norm I'm afraid.

The question should be more of what drives them to the point of killing one self to begin with? Is it cultural? Is it part of the "saving face" aspect that we have? Or does religion have a lot to do with it considering Japan is pretty secular while, say, the US is far from it.

We are trying though. And with people like Joi working so hard to make positive changes, it will get better. Little by little I'm sure it'll get better :)

Suicide is difficult to understand unless you've been close to someone who has killed him/herself or tried it yourself. Both situations have to be humbling to say the very least. I'm not sure why the suicide rate is so high here in such an apparently wealthy country like Japan, but it surely is. I'm concerned because I'm raising a daughter here and I need to understand more than I do. A friend of mine killed himself in the US some years ago, and I never knew there was a problem until it was quite obviously too late. Afterwards, I was able to put some of the pieces together, but not beforehand and it never really made sense And another friend here in Tokyo recently witnessed a suicide scene on the Yamanote line

Actually Japan is not alone on this. During winter times, train services in some European countries are always disrupted too. They blame that on lack of sunshine.

I was told the high suicide rate in Japan has something to do with the culture of "pride" (saving face). It isn't necessary a bad thing. From the place I come from, corrupt politicians cling on to power shamelessly even after their dirty acts got out on national tv. Instead of jumping into tracks, they kill other people and blow up bodies hoping nobody would find out.

Life is about balance I guess. Keep up the good job.

I read somewhere that in Japan, basic goods are the costliest in the world. Basic goods meaning Food, Education etc. I don't how costly housing is.
Does basic goods being costly make people kill themselves when they are no longer having a job.

A C,

Without even knowing much about Japan I have to disagree that basic goods could not be a major reason for these tragedies.

We have a lot of people in the developing world or in the under developed worlds living below poverty limits... sleeping on an empty stomach and still content with the bitterness of poverty.

Culture and other reasons beyond understanding play a bigger role.

Hi Joi.

This sometimes happens here in italy too. In five years this happend two times just in my small train path. I deal everyday with people full of depressing thougts, some of them go away, some remain.

We live without thinking to death, and when we run into someone who chosed to drop the faith we suddenly get in touch with fears. If we look to the fears we see our entire society falling down into pieces. If we find some bright sides we can stay here for another day.

Gunman Goes on Rampage at Nebraska Mall: Eight Killed

A 19-year-old man opened fire on Wednesday in a shopping mall
in Omaha, Nebraska, killing eight and wounding five people
before killing himself.