Japan's National Police Agency compiles an extensive database of suicides. While impossible to obtain data retroactively from a deceased person, investigators conduct interviews with family members, acquaintances and co-workers to piece together what factors most likely contributed to cause a suicide. In 2007, for example, health problems were seen as the main cause in 15,867 cases, more than half the national total. This was followed by economic problems, with 8,377; family problems, 4,117; difficulties at the workplace, 2,528; casualties in the war between the sexes, 1,121; and school-related troubles, 364.
According to statistics, the top three methods for males were hanging, asphyxiation using CO2 and jumping from a high place. For females, they were hanging, jumping and drowning.
Contributing to a special report on Japan's taboos in Jitsuwa Knuckles (January), journalist Tetsuya Shibui probes the costs associated with committing suicide. From the evidence assembled, readers can conclude that while suicide may be painless, it's certainly not cheap. Particularly for family members one leaves behind.
First, take the various costs related to disposal of your corpse. If a person does not expire in a hospital, the public coroner must issue a death certificate, which generally comes to around 50,000 yen. If it is determined that a forensic autopsy is required, then depending on the location, the cost will range from 50,000 to 300,000 yen. With the exception of Kanagawa Prefecture, where the family of the deceased may be billed, this will be borne by the local government.
Embalming for a funeral generally runs from 150,000 to 200,000 yen, which will be added to the charges for cremation.
In the case of child suicides resulting from school bullying, the victim's family may decide to file a lawsuit against their child's tormentors. In one previous case, the out of court settlement came to 25 million yen. Litigation tends to be drawn out, however, and it's difficult to generalize about the amount of compensation, because courts may seek testimony about the mental state of the person prior to his or her suicide. And if the accused bully is still a minor it is possible his or her age will be factored into the judgment.
For people who jump in front of a train, the railway company may demand damages from the deceased's next of kin for interruption of service, depending on the time of day and how long the service was halted. This figure appears to be in several hundreds of thousands of yen. In one accident involving a suicide in which the driver halted his car at a Shinkansen crossing and waited for the inevitable, the demand is said to have come to 140 million yen.
A suicide that takes place in a rented apartment can affect the property's future rental value, and many landlords will demand that the deceased family make up any shortfall. If the flat is kept vacant for several months afterwards, the family may be expected to continue paying the rent. Owning a residence outright does not necessarily ensure a solution: a stipulation in the real estate law requires potential buyers be informed for up to seven years that the former owner of the property had committed suicide therein.
So then: is seeking oblivion in the remote hills a thriftier way to make one's exit? Quite the contrary. Organizing a search team to hunt for a missing person can cost several tens of thousands of yen per day. And if a search helicopter is required, costs can easily run over 1 million yen. What's more, searchers or rescuers may be injured or killed while trying to retrieve the corpse, which are likely to result in claims for compensation.
Writer Shibui also notes that botched suicide attempts may outnumber successful suicides by a factor of 10 -- perhaps as many as 300,000 per year. And, he warns, in worst cases the person may be left with permanent, crippling damage requiring constant nursing care.© Japan Today