My friend went missing in August of 2011. He was found by the police two weeks later. During the time that he was away, he visited places well-known as suicide spots, such as Aokigahara Jukai (The Sea of Trees) forest at the foot of Mt. Fuji and and Tojinbo, a series of steep cliffs facing the Sea of Japan. He was in inly 23 years-old at the time and was looking for a place to die. Although his friends knew about his obsession, most were sure that he would never actually try to take his own life.


Despite receiving support from his friends and family and seeming to have recovered from his suicidal thoughts, he left this world in August of 2016. Without discussing the matter with anyone. And without leaving a trace. He used a suicide method that was much talked about at the time. Could it be that that method, which was widely known as one that would allow for a painless death, made it easier for him to choose to commit suicide?

If he was unaware of such suicidal techniques would he have committed suicide? How much did his research and media reports after his first suicide attempt influence his thoughts?


Instead of just letting his death merely be emotionally consumed personally and in society, I want to face this problem not on an individual, but on a societal level.


Our psyche is sometimes deprived of its life by the "mind virus" which affects it.

Since Goethe published "The Sorrows of Young Werther" in 1774, suicides imitating the protagonist of the novel occurred one after another among young people.

This work has a history of being banned in several countries as a result.

Love suicides became frequent in the early 1700s in Japan as well, due to Joruri plays such as "The Love Suicides at Sonezaki" by Chikamatsu Monzaemon, and the shogunate forbade its performance.

At the time, the chain of love suicides spreading almost like an infectious disease was called the "love suicide tuberculosis".

History repeats itself, and emotions almost similar to an admiration for suicide continued being fueled afterwards by the suicides of Misao Fujimura, Ryunosuke Akutagawa and the Sakatayama double suicide.

It spreads like a virus throughout society, from the brain of one person to another.


In 1933, a suicide which occurred on Mount Mihara in Oshima was reported as sensational by the media at the time. It being a suicide by a beautiful woman, her not following any attendant, her words that she's going to heaven, and the mystery of disappearing into smoke without leaving a corpse were all things which gathered much attention from society.

As a result, there were 994 attempted suicides in a similar manner in one year on Mount Mihara. The proportion of people under 30 years old was no less than 95%.

The number of tourists increased by 50% from the previous year, and 150,000 people came to see the site of the suicide during the course of a year. Along with that, this place created a "suicide spot" image, and attracted many people wishing to commit suicide the following 3 years or so as a result.


Mount Mihara is now no longer considered a suicide spot, but the most famous suicide spot in the world is in Japan. It is the Aokigahara "Sea of Trees".

They say that this place became recognized by the world as a suicide spot since "The Tower of Waves", a novel by Seicho Matsumoto, was published in 1960.

Suicides were being carried out there occasionally even before, but the scene of "a beautiful woman on the verge of suicide in a sea of trees" depicted by the novel and the movie released in the same year must have been seen by some people as an attractive option.


In 1974, sociologist David P. Phillips named the phenomenon which causes these imitative suicides "the Werther effect".

In 2000, WHO published "How to report suicide cases in ways which prevent suicide". In other words, a guideline on suicide media reporting.

Among the items listed in the guideline as those which may "cause a chain of suicides" are posting photographs and wills, and reporting details concerning the location and method, but, from that time to the present age, things such as these have been reported numerous times for suicides of famous people and news-hook suicides which gather people's attention.

The suicide of Yukiko Okada caused the "Yukiko Syndrome" through its media reports, and the Shin-Koiwa Station became a suicide spot through media reports and Internet memes.

The people committing suicide have no intention of creating followers - they are created by those who are left behind.


Words and tales accompanying suicide change in form and spread, influencing people's behavior when they face difficulties.

"I'll repent by dying", "We'll be bound in Heaven", "I only bring trouble to my family", "I'm better off dead", "I'll make you regret", "I'll be reborn", "The meaning to life", "I have a right to die", etc.

Are they maybe only repeating words they have heard somewhere? Even if it is not so, is suicide really the only path left?

While the brain matures, young people are likely to behave impulsively, and the majority of imitative suicides are committed by young people. Furthermore, they are now closer to the Internet than other age groups, and they have a sense of familiarity with the voices of the invisible crowd. They are suitable prey to the "suicide mind virus" which makes people think of suicide and wants to make them commit it. Are the people using the word "die" on a daily basis aware of its power?


As with the Internet, the advancement of technology enables the analysis of emotions from images in order to create a suicide prevention technology, it aims to eliminate suicidal wishes using brain implants, and will soon distribute death by euthanasia devices made with a 3D printer. Now, which of these is attractive?

When mentally unstable and in the gap between "I want to die" and "I want to live", the "inevitable end" death lets us see presents a great temptation.

Japanese people sometimes think of desperately wanting to live as something shameful, but desperately wanting to live is never shameful.


It is the pain that is the problem. Mental, physical, economic, people only want to escape from pain.

They are not looking for death. They are looking for liberation from pain. It is just that death presented itself as a simple and clear method of liberation.

I'm not saying that dying is necessarily a bad thing, but there are no possibilities if you are not alive.

Through this project, I'm considering how we are influenced by people other than ourselves, and whether recognizing the enemy called "the suicide mind virus" may become a vaccine for it.

Should not we think about other things rather than "how to die"?






Mind Viruses Linking Motivation and Action


Suffering is what everyone experiences in life.

There are variations of sufferings.  Their severity and type as well as their cause, such as environment and character, greatly vary from person to person.  That is why you cannot simply conclude by saying “tough.”  What may trigger thoughts of suicide when one faces a state of suffering.


An insight into copycat suicides which actually occurred in Japan, scientific researches, and cultural aspects of Japan suggests the presence of a mind virus which affect people’s actions and mind.  This is because we, the people today, belong to a great group, or the society, which has the originated from the past.  The mind the group shares affects the way people act without being them realising it.


Therefore, I studied not the reasons of suicide, but what causes one to think of suicide.

I am, personally, not for or against suicide.

However, I object to being biased to find no other way but death.




Werther Effect


“The Sorrow of Young Werther” was published in 1774 by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and became a great hit in European countries.  At the same time, these countries saw many suicides of young men as if they were imitating the story that unfolds in the text. The hero of this novel, Werther, is heartbroken by his unrequited love to Charlotte and eventually takes his own life by shooting himself.  In his final suicide letter he mentions gratitude for her and his death shakes her and was beautified by his love and the romanticism throughout the novel.


200 years after these tragic events, in 1974, American Humanities Professor and Researcher David P. Phillips labelled the increase of suicides reported in mass media the “Werther Effect” on studies and stories stemming from the original novel.  Through extensive research it is generally understood that young people are easily affected by the ‘Werther Effect’, and is a phenomenon tracked through suicide reports.




Mt. Mihara and the 1933 ‘Cluster Suicide Effect’


A young woman jumped from a volcano of a remote island.


What was peculiar about this suicide was that the woman brought her friend to watch the moment she dived into the crater.  The story of her death was widely reported by mass media.  This story of the mysterious and tragic, but beautiful death quickly spread and caught the attention of the people.

It happened that year.  In 1933, 944 actually died or attempted suicide in the same way at the same volcano. It is assumed that there are some suicides which have not been reported, some say the number is actually above 1000.


The people who followed her death were called “Mt. Mihara Disease Patients.”  People considered this phenomenon of an explosive suicide increase as an epidemic.  Mt. Mihara in Izu-Oshima, is definitely not an easy place to reach.  Nevertheless, the effect of Mt. Mihara Disease was great, it attracted many people to Mt. Mihara, and even aroused them to climb to the top of the mountain.


The ways those affected by the ’’disease'' committed suicide were theatrical.

In that year 1500 visited Mt. Mihara on weekends.  190 thousand people went to the volcano for sightseeing to this suicide place.It is 50% increase over the previous year .Many of the attempts were made in front of a crowd.  The crowd would ask: “anybody going?” and a man would jump into the crater saying: “I am.”

The media reported this absurd phenomenon every day.


The suicides the patients of Mt. Mihara disease committed have not been seen in other parts of the world.

It appears as if they have actually been infected with some virus.

About 90% of the suicides in Mt. Mihara were committed by people in the age range 15 – 29 years .  The reason for suicide was pessimism, 40%, followed by disease, 20%.  What is this virus which made people travel to a remote island and which caused the theatric jump-off to release themselves from the pessimism, the suffering without a clear solution.


The answer to the question is beautification of suicides by the media beginning in Mt. Sakata joint suicide that happened the year before.  A note one of the joint suicide left saying “please think of the smoke from Mt. Mihara as my mortuary tablet” enhanced the beautification.

People began to consider suicide as something beautiful.




Imitability of Beautified Stories and Reports of Suicides


Japan also has a history of copycat suicide acts spreading contagiously. "The Love Suicides at Sonezaki" written by Chikamatsu Monzaemon was first performed in 1703. Young men and women in love with one another who wished to be together in the afterlife were given hope by this play's conclusion, and this led to a wave of love suicides. At that time, the bakufu government thoroughly eliminated the glamorized image of love suicide by prohibiting all performances of this play and putting the decapitated heads of those who carried out love suicides on public display. At the time, the contagion of copycat suicides was compared to a disease and people called it the "contagious love suicide death disease." Thereafter too, sorrowful incidents of copycat "glorified suicide" acts broke out one after another. A film based on the Sakatayama love suicide incident of 1932 was released one month after it occurred. The film, entitled "Love that Reached Heaven," led people to imagine a happy world after death. This widely popular film resulted in over 200 people committing copycat suicides at the same spot.


In 1986, the heartthrob idol Yukiko Okada committed suicide while she was at the peak of her popularity. The mass media rushed to the spot where she ended her own life, filmed her dead body, and reported her death in a sensationalist manner. As a result, in one week eight people, and in one month over 30 people, imitated her suicide. This phenomenon was called the Yukko (Yukiko's nickname) Syndrome. That same year, the number of suicide victims who were minors climbed to 802, a number exceeding the preceding and following years by 40%.


Set off by media reports and stories based on suicides, "viruses" that pathologically orient people toward death are steadily spreading. In 2000, the WHO recommended "PREVENTING SUICIDE: A RESOURCE FOR MEDIA PROFESSIONALS," which is based on the Werther effect.


What about Japan today? In recently observed reporting on suicides in Japan, there are still not a few cases of details such as names, pictures, suicide notes, death scenes and suicide methods being reported on television programs and elsewhere. Naturally, there have been cases where the mass media has voluntarily adopted regulations and addressed the mass public about the issue. Nevertheless, in most cases, it cannot be said that the guidelines are being followed.


The reporting is not maliciously intended, and I do not think that the reporting itself should be eliminated. However, for those who are in circumstances that make it easy for them to empathize with the suicide, the reporting becomes an opportunity for them to identify themselves with the deceased. The story of the deceased becomes conflated with their own selves after death and they see imagine themselves after death. It is almost as though all of their own problems disappear and they can see someone whose problems have been resolved. But that is an illusion. It is not right to report things in such a way and it encourages people to identify themselves with the deceased.



In fact, on one occasion, when an elementary school student who attempted suicide by jumping from the roof of a school but survived with only injuries, was asked by his teacher why he did it, he replied that it was to make the children at school who bullied him, feel regret. The boy explained that after seeing them crying with remorse at his funeral, he would attend school again the next day.


Today we are in an age where, even if the media does not report an incident in detail, individuals spread detailed information over the internet. That is precisely why it will become even more important for the media not to refrain from reporting, but to consider how to do their reporting.



Do Suicide Reports Induce New Suicides?


There are reasons for suicides.  The will to die rises with all sorts of things from the past of the person committing suicide.  However, even they don’t know when it comes.  It is as if you are building blocks that would fall anytime.

One research says an average of 7 years and 5 months passes from a triggering event to the actual death.  Do reports on suicides bring new suicides?  Or are they merely expediting when it takes place.


A research concludes that reports on suicide bring new suicides, suggested by the fact that the number of suicides, after an increase due to suicide reports, only goes back to an ordinary level but not below.




"As for the personal life events that seem like decisive conditions that lead to the contemplation of suicide, they are in actuality merely a coincidence. If an individual is defeated by even a minor blow that the environment gives, that is for no other reason than that the state of society is tailor-making individuals into the perfect shape to fall prey to suicide."

Émile Durkheim






Mind Viruses and Cultural Genes


Japanese have been seduced by stories of suicides and have accepted them as a part of their culture.  This is obvious when we consider the number of Japanese vocabulary words that express suicide. In contrast to the English word for suicide, which only expresses the meaning to kill oneself, in Japanese, there are many descriptive words that allow one to visualize the method and circumstances of and sometimes even the reason for a suicide.

 As preserved in Japanese words such as "self-judgment" (jisai) and "self-determination" (jiketsu), the Japanese language has a diverse range of words for acts of ending one's life to take responsibility, demonstrate one's innocence or as a means of demonstrating loyalty. Hara-kiri, which was also a means of demonstrating loyalty, remained rooted in Japanese thought as Bushido (the way of the samurai warrior) even during the Meiji period (1868-1912). During World War II, the army in particular made kamikaze pilots expend their lives in suicide attacks by using a pressure to conform that was based upon a way of thinking that held that it was to be done for the "sake of the nation." A sense of an obligation to commit suicide has been handed down from generation to generation.


Even today, those who have made a mistake, have been criticized by society, or have a low sense of self-esteem end up feeling that they have an obligation to commit suicide as an act of self-punishment. They hear a non-existent voice that tells them they must do so.

For example, the reason that 80% of people in Japan agree with the death penalty (2014 Cabinet Office Report) is that the thinking that "one makes restitution with one's death" operates forcefully not only with respect to themselves but with respect to others too.


Hence, the cultural influence that the Japanese people have passed down from past to present is received in the process of the social learning they have undergone, and has unconsciously controlled people's behavior.

Genes are the reason that children biologically resemble their parents. The evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins calls the cultural genes that a society shares memes and observes that the "something" that spreads memes to the minds of many different people is a mind virus. The analogy of a virus is employed because the manner in which the mind virus spreads resembles that of an actual virus.


In his book, Virus of the Mind: The New Science of the Meme, Richard Brodie says the following about mind viruses.


There are many different phenomena in which memes spread from person to person and in this infection phenomenon, they do not just randomly become infected, but there is "something" that uses people to spread memes. That is because there is some kind of cultural element that spreads the cultural element's meme to many different minds, and that cultural element is a mind virus. Mind viruses enter our minds in all sorts of ways, including conversation, television, newspapers, reading and the internet. And just as memes evolve, so also do mind viruses evolve."


Biological viruses duplicate themselves through the copying mechanism of cells, computer viruses duplicate themselves through the copying mechanism of computers, and mind viruses duplicate themselves through mimicry and empathy.

Moreover, at the sites where they are duplicated, they manipulate people's behavior, cause events to occur and then spread to other people.



Here I would like to refer to the culture of Japanese village society. In Japan, where 70% of the country is occupied by mountainous terrain, there used to be little exchange between villages and it was thus considered important not to disrupt cooperation and harmony within a village, leading to a spiritual base being built where outsiders were excluded. As a result, how to live life without being excluded from the village became what was considered important. And then, during World War II, a pressure to conform that began with the word "unpatriotic" unfolded across Japan.



Today, the culture of village society exists as a culture of "reading the atmosphere." Japanese people call a person who sees someone who is sad and imitates their feelings by shedding the same tears of sadness and saying that they are sad a "good person" and call a person who understands how the sad person feels but states their own views calmly without sharing in the same emotions a "cold person,"  and will sometimes belittle and ridicule that person even when their opinion is a valuable one. In order to live in Japanese society, which has a tendency to exclude those who cannot become a part of the whole group, imitating emotions is still important today. And it may be said that the culture of village society that "forces the imitation of emotions" is precisely one of the factors that allow mind viruses to spread easily in Japan.




Every language is a testament to how its speakers have lived, and to the things that have drawn their concern.


It seems that it would be possible to understand the differences that exist between two cultures by comparing the words that each has for a specific occurrence.

In several European languages, there is only a single word that represents the concept of suicide. In comparison, the Japanese language's vocabulary on suicide is decidedly extensive. With regard to their characteristics, the terms that exist in Japanese are often descriptive, while in English, there are more terms that are evaluative in nature. The latter can be terms that convey notions of morality or criminality.

In Japanese, none of the words for suicide convey any moral judgment. The reasons for this are connected to the relationship that the people of Japan have had with suicide in the past.

Whereas suicide was a crime in the West, in Japan, it was an act of atoning for wrongdoing, and of maintaining honor.


The suicide of a samurai was first recorded during the Hogen rebellion of 1156. During the Muromachi period (circa 1336-1573), many social issues were resolved through suicide. That method was fully realized as a distinct cultural practice in the Edo period (1603-1868), in the form of "seppuku" (ritual suicide by disembowelment). The Japan of that era was a rigidly feudalistic society, in which one of the most heavily-emphasized notions was loyalty. Although harmony has also been stressed in Japanese society, this has not been done in service of the goals of the individual. Rather, it is ultimately the goals of the whole that have been prioritized. In this context, the notion of loyalty has signified compliance toward the objectives of society as a whole, more than devotion on an individual level.

In modern Japan, as well, importance is placed on the act of "reading the situation." To do so means to not disturb the harmony of the group. When an individual injects a difference of opinion into the harmonious "everyone," that individual is removed from the group.

Modern Japanese society is one in which people shorten their lives working for the company's benefit, and monitor each other's behavior at school and in the workplace. Those who disturb the harmony are condemned to social death.

The cultural gene that is Japanese society has been passed down over the ages, alongside the DNA of the Japanese people themselves. Even as the gene's gradual mutation continues, it is still being passed down in today's Japan.



Concerns about “Mind virus” of sites to commit suicide


We have already forgotten the pandemic “Mind virus” of Mt. Mihara 85 years ago. Once Mihara was a famous site to commit suicide, now it does not have such a face. However, there are many sites to commit suicide, and also, “Mind virus” are spreading out in this moment.


Although copycat suicide on Mt. Mihara was already fading in 1937, we have other famous sites in Japan. Aokigahara forest, on the northwestern flank of Mt. Fuji, is the one of them. It became popular for suicide attributed to a novel “Nami-no-To” published in 1960. On Aokigahara, 30 people commit suicide every year since the1980s until today. In the worst case over 100 remains are found every year. 200 people are prevented to commit suicide. To the question why he had picked Aokigahara to commit suicide, an aspiring suicider, protected by the police, answered that he had remembered the novel he had read once and that the main character in the novel had chosen Aokighara as the place for suicide.

The Police used to make thorough investigations in order to find remains, from 1971 to 1998, to give families and friends a chance to mourn their deaths, but now no longer do it. This is because, the police found a larger amount of bodies than expected and, above all, announcing the number of remains could bring another copycat.


Another site” Tojinbo”, a big cliff in Fukui prefecture. Almost 20 people commit suicide yearly in the last 40 years, but numbers dramatically changed after one social game became popular in 2016. That AR game use the mobile device GPS and we can catch rare species around Tojinbo. People walk around day and night, and volunteers come back again to prevent people from committing suicide.In the first quarter of 2017 only one person attempted suicide. A “Mind virus” spread from one social game is being written and images are being updated to this site.

Recently, sensational news about suicide are decreasing, and there have not been any music or story to glorify the suicide and to make it a big trend. Many people think the expansion of distressing “virus” no longer occurs, but “Mind virus” has not disappeared. We need to focus on the newest site “Shin-Koiwa”, one local station in Tokyo.


“Shin-Koiwa” a station in Chiba prefecture which used to be just a local train station, became famous over night in 2011 due to the broadcasting of a suicides there.

 The origin was the news of  one woman’s suicide.

The incident was played up in the mass media because someone was involved and injured. Since then media continued to stoke anxiety by using that name in their headline (“Shin-koiwa again” “xx times at Shin-koiwa”). Throwing themselves is front of a train is not an unusual way of committing suicide, but a series of suicide in Shin-Koiwa and stirring up of mass media made “Shin-Koiwa” as kind of “Machine of termination one life” to the suicide applicants.

Video news of suicide with the loud screech of a buzzer on the platform Shin-Koiwa informed the public about the incident, suicide and name Shin-Koiwa.

xx is the number of people who were affected by the incident reported in the news at that time. It means that this numerous people got “Mind virus” of suicide by throwing themselves to train at Shin-Koiwa.

Then, at famous Japanese BBS, people start using the word “meet at Shin-Koiwa” as greeting, with sympathy or empathy, to someone who despair.


Reference to the report of “A Suicide Behavior Model of Railway Suicide” from RTRI (Railway Technical Research Institute), 70% people associate human incidents with suicide. Today, train is a transportation we cannot live without. Many people come to the train station and ride the train once or twice a day. At the time, people sometimes hear announcements of human incidents on the platform or on the electric signboard. Recently the delay caused by human incident occur once a day in the metropolitan area. We can see over 70 thousands tweets relating to the word “human incident” per  month. (as of Dec, 2017)

Almost all tweets tell only that a human incident occurred. No one mentions the cause, like suicide, collision or falling out. But why does 70% of people associate human incidents with suicide? The report tells the fact that “the more people listen to the news of human incidents on TV or in the newspapers, the more people associate human incidents with suicide.

To throw oneself in front of a train (Train suicide) corresponds to only 10 % of suicides. Train suicide is a big infectivity, a“Mind virus” but there are a lot of difficulties in committing a train suicide. Some reasons for this may be the amount of people on the platform, and huge compensation to railway company by bereaved family. Occasionally suicide applicants consider the merits and demerits of committing suicide in each case. In other words, train suicide affects a lot of people and it connects death, escape and repetition. The train station is used daily by so many people, as a starting point of the day so if you want to escape the office, school or even life itself you can easily find a way out at the station. People commit suicide daily in the train station and it makes us fool ourselves: ‘’The only way to escape is suicide.’’


Reference to the Data book of human incident on railway, people in their twenties is the largest age group to commit suicide. It can't be confirmed but it may just be that young people have a high suicide rate  because people need impulse to commit train suicide. People might come up with suicide, because the railway is a very friendly part of our daily lives. A place to start and end the day. Further more, people do not need any preparation for train suicide, instead it is an easy way to commit suicide.

Some people who attempt to commit train suicide stay on the platform for long hours, wavering whether they shall die or live. Death might be an impulsive choice in the end. Therefore, ha good way to dissuade people from committing suicide would be to restrain their impulse to do so.


It is said in part that it to become a tranquilizer to have some ways to death whenever they want. It has some meaning that providing a relief to escape immediately from everlasting day life. Someone say that it must to be needed a final option, which “can choose die anytime, anywhere with their own will” for people who has suicidal ideation or attempt suicide in order to survive this community, despite they actually do not commit suicide.


Transmigration, one conception of Buddhism, had a side “Mind virus” of preventing suicide. Buddha indicated that even if people committed suicide to escape this life, they also would have pain of life in the afterlife, so that people should have better life in this life. However, unconsciously, people emphasized an expectation for afterlife and made it into Utopia. As a result, conception of transmigration became a “Mind virus” to cause a suicide.


Nowadays, there are some TV animations popular among youngsters. A typical story is that a main character  is reborn in another world with consciousness of its previous life. He is praised and finds great happiness without any effort. Influenced by these stories, schoolchildren find an expectation in afterlife or in another world, and discuss their possibility to commit suicide on the BBS.

Despite the fact that the conception was indicated as a mitigation of fear of death at first, but now that “Mind virus”  has diverted their purpose to direct people to the death.




In the novel Tower of Waves, released in 1959, there is a scene where a character commits suicide at Aokigahara Forest. Due to the novel's TV adaptation and cinema after 1960, the recognition of "Aokigahara = suicide" spread more widely. 30 to 50 bodies are found every year, and there have been years where over 100 bodies were found. After 2000, large-scale search operations to find bodies were stopped. This was because they were discovering too many bodies, and reporting on the events would result in more people committing suicide there. Even so, there were still 121 people planning suicide who were found and stopped in 2011, so it's clear to see that this is no longer a fad, and has become the norm.

As a result, even with the ever increasing tally of well-known suicide sites all over Japan, the number of those that have taken their lives in Aokigahara—also known as the Sea of Trees—alone is overwhelming.

The count of known suicides is estimated to be about 1700 and that of unaccounted suicides is even higher at 2-3000. Furthermore, the total attempted suicides is speculated to be ten times greater than the total successful ones; in Aokigahara alone there have been approximately 20,000. 90% of this demographic chose this particular location to take their lives because they were aware of its infamy as a popular suicide site.


A prefecture's rate of suicide changes when considering the victims' prefecture of residence in addition to the prefecture of the death. For instance, there are more suicides committed by non-residents than residents in Aokigahara; in Yamanashi Prefecture, the suicide rate is bolstered by the suicides of people living in other prefectures. In 2017, Yamanashi Prefecture's suicide rate was 16.2 (for a population of 100,000), which is 0.2 lower than the national average. However, when sorted by the location of discovery after suicide, Yamanashi Prefecture's rate is 21.9, exceeding the national average by 5.1. These so-called sites of suicide attract those wanting to take their own lives.

Albeit, most of these infamous locations are known only to locals and have little pull over those living in other prefectures. Knowledge of the most popular sites, such as Aokigahara and Tojinbo, is spread through the influence of the aforementioned novels and films; on the other hand, Mount Mihara has been mostly forgotten despite having had an unparalleled, explosive power over those wishing for death. It is speculated that the accessible terrain, obscurity, and beautiful scenery of suicide locations attract those looking for death; however, to those who do not know of a site's infamy, the land is just like any other. Places do not invite death; it is the images people have created of places that propels it.





Mirror Neurons


Social Learning is a behavioral style in which people belonging to a culture are affected by others and acquire new habits, behavior, values, actions, etc.  In this social learning theory, a psychologist Bandura, suggests that an observation learning is achieved by simply watching how a model acts.  The model may not only be a real person, but may be a character in a creation.  According to the social learning theory, the copycat suicides triggered by “The Sorrow of Young Werther” is nothing more than what could be expected.


An activity of brain called mirror neuron attracts attention in the field of neuroscience.  A characteristic feature of the mirror neuron is that human, not only understands an action by observing it, but can deeply understand the intention behind the action and even feel empathy.  To the contrary, only mimicking of actions have been observed in monkeys.  Humans mimic emotion with the mirror neuron.  The Inferior frontal cortex and insular cortex that comprises the mirror neuron systems respond to self emotion (comfort, discomfort, pain, etc.), and also exhibits activation on observing emotion of others.


The “virus” affecting people’s action which I previously suggested its presence, makes people feel empathy through observation and learning, and infect the brains with “suicides” by the functionality of the mirror neurons.


The correlation between the brain and impulsive behaviour


Important parts of the brain, the limbic system that governs empathy and affection and the prefrontal cortex that controls emotion and reason, grow at a different speed. Young people's prefrontal cortex matures slowly and they are therefore said to be more inclined to act on impulses.


Here, we have examined a graph showing the age of the people who have committed suicide at Mount Mihara. As mentioned above, young people aged between 15 and 29 accounted for 80 percent of the Mount Mihara Suicides.


This indicates that their actions were likely to be impulsive.

The first suicider, who became the source of the “mind virus” of the Mount Mihara disease died at the age of 21.

This woman decided to go to Mount Mihara to kill herself after hearing that her senior student committed suicide.

Had she not heard this story, what would have happened to her?


Ryunosuke Akutagawa, a famous Japanese novelist, took his own life due to a “vague anxiety about my future," according to his suicide letter.

This incident also sparked a boom of suicides.

It is difficult to find a cure for this invisible anxiety. It is also difficult to wipe out self-hatred. When an individual is attacked by overwhelming anxiety and fear, thrown into a panic, and presented with a means to end it all, they jump to the solution on impulse.


As anyone might have experienced with shopping, impulsive actions become utterly uninteresting, all of a sudden or as time passes by.

Shopping only costs regrets, but a suicide is quite a different story.





The suicide gene


Researchers are researching the possible connection between suicide and genes.

It is evident that genes influence physical characteristics, but can suicide be inherited not only culturally but also biologically?

I would like to introduce one article from abroad. This was published online in the Boston Globe on August 4th, 2003.


Allen Boyd Jr. from North Carolina first lost his mother when she committed suicide. Then his two brothers, his sister, and father committed suicide. He has attempted suicide three times as well.

"My mother planted a seed in each and every one of our family members. My mother's act gave us all the option," said Allen.


Dr. David Brent, who researches “the suicide gene”, says “mental illness is not the only cause when looking at families with a history of suicides and suicide attempts. There is something that drives them to impulsive actions.” When analyzed after death, the brains of people who committed suicide show a low level of a metabolite of serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that affects emotions and is involved in the control of impulses. A serotonin deficiency may result in a ten times higher than normal risk of suicide.


“The suicide gene” is not  just one thing. There are multiple causes such as hereditary personality and physical characteristics combined with the memory of certain events, like for example a mother's suicide, stored in the brain. Therefore, as Allen says, it is possible that no one would have committed suicide if his mother had not.


98.3% of Japanese people have few serotonin transporters that recycle serotonin and are therefore genetically more susceptible to anxiety. Recent studies show no correlation between that particular gene and depression. However, a survey conducted among Japanese people by the Japanese Trade Union Confederation in 2017 shows that 77% feel anxious about their future. This indicates that there is a tendency to feel anxious in Japan.


Moreover, antidepressants are known to have a serotonin-increasing effect in nerve cells, so while we cannot say that the serotonin transporter gene alone can cause depression, we cannot say there is no correlation between the two either.





Changing methods of suicide


Just as it was popular in the past to commit suicide using drugs, these days other ways of committing suicide have become trendy. By 2007, for example, 29 people had committed suicide by hydrogen sulfide gas. Over the next year, that number climbed rapidly to 1056 people.


One particularly noteworthy fact is that, according to studies, there was a proportional relationship between the increase in the number of suicides and the degree of exposure in news reports between April and May of 2008. This was because, although the WHO had sent suicide reporting guidelines to each newspaper and TV news company beforehand advising them to avoid reporting the details of the suicide, they nevertheless reported that "the method can be found on the internet."

At that time, during the 2000s, the internet was not quite as familiar as it is now. Even so, as a result of these news reports, more and more people were searching for and asking about this method of suicide on the internet.


The people who publicized suicide by hydrogen sulfide gas across the internet claimed that it would grant "immediate and sure death" and there was "no need to suffer prolonged pain." These claims are false, as hydrogen sulfide gas can cause several hours of agonizing pain. What people are seeking is a painless death. By claiming that it would grant such an easy exit, these people started a trend of suicide by hydrogen sulfide gas.

Thus this "mind virus", which was able to cause widespread suicide over a short time period using the internet as a channel of propagation, was more contagious than ever before.


The following is an article about changes in suicide methods, updated in 2018.



After WWII, suicide by gas and suicide by jumping rose, and they now rank as the second and third most popular methods of suicide.


In the 1970s, suicide by gas increased rapidly before waning again in the 1980s. The reason for this was that municipal gas companies switched over from coal gas and reformed oil gas, which contain carbon monoxide, to natural gas, and that municipal gas and propane gas fixtures were made safer with automatic shut-offs.


Recently, suicide by gas saw a temporary resurgence, but the majority of these cases were caused by carbon monoxide poisoning from automotive emissions. For a time, there was an increased number of cases of several people closing themselves in a vehicle or small room and committing suicide by the incomplete combustion of charcoal briquettes. In 2008, there was case after case of suicides committed by using store-bought household cleaners to produce hydrogen sulfide gas. This was likely the result of the spreading rumor that the gas could be used as "an alternative method to charcoal."


Recently, the overall decline in suicides has shown a generally proportional declining trend in each method of suicide. However, suicide by gas has shown a marked decline by half from its peak. In a way, the recent decline in suicides can be seen as a result of the recession of gas suicides since its boom.


Reference: Shakai Jitsujou Deta Zuroku (Picturebook of Actual Social Data)



The reason for the violent rise and fall of gas suicides is the cat and mouse game being played between countermeasures and new methods. As mentioned above, in response to the popularity of gas suicides by carbon monoxide poisoning, safety measures were taken. Subsequently, the alternative method of gas suicide by hydrogen sulfide gas gained in popularity. The problem of hydrogen sulfide gas suicides was resolved by prohibiting the sale of the chemicals which produce the gas, but the number of cases of carbon monoxide poisoning suicides due to charcoal are once again on the rise. This too has an associated image of bringing an easy death, but as stated above there is nothing easy about it. The general process of death by carbon monoxide poisoning begins with dizziness, nausea, headaches, and numbness of the extremities, gradually followed by shortness of breath. Eventually, the victim feels the slow creep of death as they are unable to move. It is a terrible and agonizing way to die.


Furthermore, suicide equipment has also evolved. In recent memory, a 3D-printed euthanasia machine created by Philip Nitschke was displayed at a funeral exhibition in the Netherlands. The device can be downloaded from the internet and printed on a 3D printer, and it is said to offer a tranquil and painless death. The device displayed at the event offered a VR experience, in which the user saw the moon and the sea, evoking feelings of peace.


By using the image of tranquility and painlessness, the mind virus of suicide continues propagate.




Non-decreasing suicide and mental disorder of young people


In recent years, many of the suicides in Japan are middle-aged and older people who are in their most productive years, and the leading cause of death is malignant neoplasia (cancer).

However, the number one cause of death among twenties to thirties is suicide since about 20 years.

Looking at the trend and the cause of death among young people in their twenties, suicide began to account for a large proportion of death causes as a result of nearly eradicating death by tuberculosis with medical care development.

If medical care progresses as it is, the day will come when there will be no death due to physical disorder.

With the progress of automatic driving technology by artificial intelligence, traffic accidents will disappear.

Then, people will die only by being killed by people.


Compared with other countries, Japan has a low prevalence rate of mental disorder.

It is about half of the top countries.

However, while it is said that most of the suicides are suffering from a mental disorder, I feel something is wrong with this result.

With no doubt, many people with mental disorder are invisible as they do not visit medical institutions and it results in the low prevalence rate.

In Japan, having a mental disorder is considered very negatively.

You hear people saying things such as "Having mental problem is something to be ashamed of.", "Depending on how you look at it, your mental problem will be healed.", etc.

Socially speaking, there is a tendency to consider mental disorder linked with crime and a desire to keep mental disorder patients in isolation.

Although Japan’s prevalence rate of mental disorder is low, the number of beds in Japanese mental hospitals have accounts 20 percent o worldwide.

In other words, for some reason, many patients with mental disorder in Japan are staying in hospitals for a long period of time.

So called "social hospitalization" would be a structure created by the consciousness of people who want to isolate mental disorder patients.

As a result, it makes people feel hesitant to see a doctor when having mental problems even though people go to hospital easily when feeling physically sick.

It can also be said that it is an example where human behavior being affected by the mind virus.


Suicide mind virus is easily infected to the brains of people who potentially have mental disorders.




"Echo Chamber Phenomenon" which promotes narrowing your perspective"


More than 90 percent of young people in Japan own a smartphone which makes it possible to access internet anywhere 24 hours a day.


Therefore, beyond the diffusion limit of information of traditional media, people have become connected with unlimited information over the internet.

But what exactly are they seeing there?


Originally, the open world called the internet a place where one could experience  various opinions.

Unlike traditional media, however, when it comes to internet, the users have the right to choose what kind of opinion to connect with.

In other words, it makes users more likely to keep watching what they want to see, what they want to know.

What is caused as a result is the echo chamber phenomenon.

The echo chamber phenomenon is to repeatedly communicate in a closed world formed by people with similar opinions and consequently narrows one’s perspective and convinces that one’s opinion is not wrong.



On an article regarding Mr. Philip Nitschke's suicide machine which was mentioned earlier, the following comments were left anonymously.


● I wish it would be introduced to Japan, too.


● They are so lucky.


● I’m jealous.


● I wish it would be available in Japan, too!


● Definitely this should be considered. Please!



Of course there are negative opinions and some comments raise doubts, but the above mentioned comments stand out since the system works as the comments that were "liked" increase in size and change into eye-catching colors.

Therefore, only a few opinions are visible, and people are gradually convinced that way of thinking.

As for the content of the article, it is obvious that people interested in suicide tend to read it.

And a tendency of comments is thought to be leaning toward them.


In this way, as people continue to be convinced of the opinion that tends to be narrowing one’s perspective, a cyber cascade occurs where people become aggressive towards those who have opposing opinions.


By the way, no one knows whether those who commented above want the suicide machine because they actually have suicidal thoughts or not.

This is one-way communication, not interactive.


Currently, when searching for words related to suicide, information for suicide prevention is provided to the top of the search results.

Of course it makes some sort of difference, but for a person who is a part of the cyber cascade, they no longer see it as a rescue.





Unintentional change in consciousness


There are an increasing number of people who feel a sense of distrust in the information provided by mass media and corporate sites are arbitrary.

Young people seeking something "real" and “a real voice” are actively using SNS, such as Twitter and Instagram,  as a medium for individuals.

Of course, it is skeptical to say that it is truly realistic, but the distrust of companies and mass media is making people believe that "real voice" is reliable information.

Besides, you can always "block" those who disagree with your idea and there are "friends" who will attack them, too.

Then the truth obtained on the internet starts to distort.

Within a small group, your own will be gradually merged into groups and you will start forgetting who you really are.


In the "real voice" which rules in the internet world, there are aggressive expressions that you usually do not hear in everyday life.

Communication with a person whose face  you cannot see makes you feel less guilty is you hurt them.

Eventually, people who get used to that sense will unconsciously start using hard words in real life, and will hurt others unintentionally.


In 2011, one suicide incident  was caused by bullying.

The student who was bullying kept saying "Go to hell" to the student who committed suicide and let him/her "practice committing suicide" every day.

He explained that saying "Go to hell" was just a greeting and everything was a game.

Beyond that, he even said that he wanted to ask the deceased student what he/she was suffering from before dying.


To live in the first place is to continue suffering and people have survived living in all times.

There is nothing wrong with seeking escape.

However, it is totally different when it comes to committing suicide.

It is certainly the case that "something" with external influence was one of the factors which brought suicide victims killed themselves.

What they wanted was escape, not death.


Humans unconsciously repeat reproducing and spreading the virus of words.


What can we do about this?

Keep asking oneself.

"How am I behaving to others? Has my attitude been a trigger to encourage someone committing suicide? "

It is necessary to look back on attitudes and behaviors arising from your own.





In 2017, a murder case that shook the world was brought to light.

A man who posted, "In life, I believe there are many people who are not covered in the news, but are suffering from suicide attempts. I would like to help these people." on social networking sites murdered 9 males and females in his room who reached out to him for support.


This man who lured in people who cannot ask people close to them for support, people who felt a feeling of trust toward a person who does not deny their opinions, and people who seek liberation from their daily struggles with alluring words before killing them told the police, "None of the people I murdered actually wanted to die."

These people did not want to die. They just wanted people who will understand them and to feel better, even if only slightly.





Suicide prevention and technology


With the progress of a variety of technologies in recent years, the probability of being able to prevent suicide has been increasing.

For example, a collaborative research group mainly led by Kyushu University, Osaka University and National Center of Neurology and Psychiatry succeeded in identifying "blood metabolites that are heavily contained in the blood of people with heavy depression or suicidal feelings."

This research is expected to make it possible to diagnose "depression" and "risk for suicide" only by conducting blood tests in the future.


Besides, a research team including Professor Marcel Just of Carnegie Mellon University (USA) analyzed the brain image with AI and succeeded in identifying more than 90 percent of those who have a high chance of committing suicide and published a paper about it.

There, a list of ten words relating to positive concepts, ten words related to negative ideas, ten words related to suicide and death were presented to the research participants, their brains were photographed by "Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI)", and AI leaned the images to identify the characteristics of suicide risk group with suicidal thoughts.


By pattern recognition using artificial intelligence, Facebook is conducting an experiment to identify individuals with suicidal thoughts though messages and comments posted by users and try to reach them.


These are technologies that still cannot be discovered unless people have blood tests, electroencephalogram measurements, and post to SNS by themselves at the moment.

In the future, however, it is likely that monitoring and analyzing emotion/behavior will be carried out separately from the intention of individuals by cameras in their smartwatches and smartphones and monitoring cameras in towns, etc.


Actually, the security system called DEFENDER X developed by Russian company ELSYS is to analyze emotions by image analysis of monitoring cameras and discover suspicious individuals. It was adopted for the Sochi Olympic Games, and the accuracy was 92%.


It is never pleasant when being analyzed your feelings without knowing, but it surely makes a big contribution not only to prevent crimes but also suicides.

However, we cannot forget that it can be only done to discourage from committing suicide at the last moment, and it cannot solve fundamental suicide problems.

Technology gives us the time to solve the problem.





What is to be solved?


Humans are made to imitate others unconsciously.

Moreover, young people have reasons to be impulsive.

From past to present, the words to inflame people continues to spread by changing their places and kinds.


SNS can show unhappiness of a virtual image to those who judge their happiness by comparison with others.

The concept of happiness defined by society creates the words "Being on the winning side" and "Being on losing side" and denies individual values.

And this leads the society where an only winner can be happy.

As the value of happiness which used to be illusion eventually becomes reality, people will lose the meaning of lives and the value of living.


The image of a word has a big influence on the behavior of humans. Among people with suicidal thoughts, the phrase  "I want to feel better" has been overwritten by the phrase "I want to die".

As a result, people who wants to say "I want to feel better" will say "I want to die".

At the end of repetitive thinking, people come to think only about death and it actually leads to suicidal behavior.


Everyone lives while balancing with anxiety for living and fear for dying.

In such circumstances, many of those who are thinking about dying say that it’s not easy to gather courage to die.

The word "courage to die" plants an image as if a person who does not commit suicide is a coward.

As a result, the fact that they cannot die makes their self-hatred become even worse.

Who started to say the word "courage"? Did something that wished for human death taught so for the purpose of fueling death?


Basically there is a cause for leading someone to commit suicide.

In other words, suicide is not "killing yourself" but "something makes you to kill yourself".

However, even though you are made to kill yourself in despair over too much pain and hardship to find salvation in society, you will want to be liberated.

And the word "right to die" appeared.

It is under the shadow of the euthanasia and death with dignity being discussed, but the right to die will be expanding to everyone in the near future.

Because the death without pain is technically possible, everyone will say that they should have the right to choose it.

For example, if "anytime anywhere, anyone" can easily get a suicide machine which works without pain, it will be hard to stop the urge to death.

If "the right to die expanded to everyone" will become common, it may deprive what triggers people’s suicidal wish or their Intention to solve own problems.

To those who struggle between life and death, kindhearted person would say like this;

"If it is too painful to live, remember that you always have the right to die."


A day like that may come one day.

In fact, many of the comments on the videos that recorded the man committing suicide by jumping in front of the train on the video sites are "annoying".

There are only a few comments which consider the feeling of the man who committed suicide.

Certainly, the impact on accident resulting in injury or death on the society is enormous.

However, it is too cruel to comment "Just die on your own." and "Die elsewhere." to people who are suffering enough to think that living is nothing more than pain.

For them, the suicide problem is not a problem causing suicide, but it is a problem caused by suicide.

Of course, the problem that causes suicide is not simple, and it will not be able to be solved easily.

However, there is no future for a society that would suggest people to die as a solution to the suicide problems.


To express a personal opinion, if ideas for solutions to these problems were to be presented, one must know, first off, that people’s decision-making processes are influenced by imagined stories that are created and beautified by others, that one must have a place in multiple communities (without relying on any specific community), that even if one is denied by a group or a psychologically dominant individual, one does not have to comply and deny oneself (and must develop a spirit for resisting such opinions), that one must know that, for all people, the words they use and the images they disseminate spread opportunities leading people to consider suicide, and that they must initiate changes in each person’s awareness—changes that propagate images that are akin to suicide vaccines rather than suicide viruses in society. As such, there will finally arise in society a sense of recognition toward solving the problems—the practical problems—faced by suicidal individuals, and we will overcome inertia as we move to embrace fundamental solutions.



A friend of mine visiting sites known to be places for suicide certainly thought about death countless times, yet never confided in anyone. And no one took notice either. During those visits, he may have seen death as the only available option. However, three years after visiting the suicide sites in 2011, he found, through someone, a desire to live. Those around him, and certainly he himself, did not suspect that he would commit suicide one year later.





























1974年、社会学者のDavid P. Phillipsによってこれら模倣自殺を引き起こす事象に”ウェルテル効果”という名前がつけられた。




















私達が考えるべき事柄は” どのようにして死ぬか ”ではなかったはずだ。


























1933年 三原山における群発自殺




























































例えば、日本で8割の人が死刑制度に賛成している(2014年内閣府調べ) のは「死をもって償う」という考えが自分自身だけでなく他者に対しても強制するように働いているからであろう。



子が親に生物的に似る理由として遺伝子がある。進化生物学者Richard Dawkinsは、社会が共有している情報を文化の遺伝子として考えることをミームと呼び、ミームを多くの人の心へ拡散させる  ”何か ”がマインド・ウイルスであると指摘する。マインド・ウイルスはその拡散の仕方が実際のウイルスに似ているために、ウイルスとの類推が用いられている。


マインド・ウイルスについてRichard Brodieは自著"Viruses of the Mind:The New Science of the Meme"内でこう述べている。

















































鉄道総研が行なった鉄道人身事故に関する自殺行動モデル(A Suicide Behavior Model of Railway Suicides )内での調査によって人身事故と聞いて連想するものが自殺である人は全体の7割であった。電車は現代社会において、日常生活を営むために欠かせない交通手段である。多くの人が日に1・2度は駅に足を運び乗車する。その際、アナウンスや車内電光掲示板などで人身事故発生の報せを受け取ることがある。昨今の事情として、首都圏における人身事故での遅延は1日に1度以上あるのが日常となっている。人身事故についてのツイートは1ヶ月で約7万件以上がされていた。(2017年12月調査時)



























































過去に薬物による自殺が流行ったように、近年いくつかの自殺方法が流行している。たとえば硫化水素ガスによる自殺者数は2007年時点で 29 名だった。翌2008年には 1,056 名と1年間で急激に増加している。










“ 戦後大きく増加したのは、ガス自殺と飛び降り自殺であり、近年は、第2位〜3位の手段となっている。









































* 日本でも導入して欲しいな。

* ああいいなぁ。

* 羨ましい。

* これは是非日本でもやっていただきたい!

* 是非検討を!








































「世の中には、ニュースになっていないけど自殺未遂をしてしまって苦しい思いをしてる人がたくさんいると思います そんな人の力になりたいです」