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What do you think is causing the recent spate of random stabbings in Japan and how can society address the problem?

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"Society" really can't do much of anything to regulate what people will or won't do. If a person is going to stab or kill someone, they're going to do it. The only thing I think Japanese society can do in this seeming epidemic is to be proactive in 'self defense.' By that I mean perhaps carrying pepper spray, or hiring more police and having them be a physical presence and armed.

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What do you think is causing the recent spate of random stabbings in Japan

ignored by 'rjd jr' and that is the main (largely ignored) reason that this problem will never get solved. First and foremost, one has to admit that there is a problem and then find the cause and cure. Till then discussion about later part 'how society address the problem' does not arise.

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Copy-cat behavior? Japanese culture does not embrace originality or empathy within interpersonal relationships. Thus, anyone with a mental problem that inclines them to violence is likely to copy the last crime that they saw on TV. Then it becomes a kind of sick fashion. I'm surprised there aren't more.

"Society" does not address problems; this is a task for those who make the laws and govern. The main perpetrators of this problem are the parents of these who express their frustration through violence. Poor parenting produces messed up kids who grow up (or don't grow up) to perpetuate the same. I see it every day.

If the education process in Japan were to teach more about individual worth and freedom with responsibility, the situation might improve. As it stands, most interpersonal relations in Japan are functional roles where people are expected to behave in a prescribed manner and there is little sense of individual value. Frankly, It's a social sickness on a massive scale. The cure is to teach our children empathy and respect for each other. I would put that on the primary-school curriculum ahead of the three "R's". Then I would introduce parenting classes at Junior-High level - and I don't mean teaching kids how to change diapers.

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clearly Japanese society is suffering from a shortage of voodoo dolls

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Only when would be knife attackers in Japan start to fear for their safety upon possible retaliation of thier vicitms will the incidents decrease appreciably. Since the government would have to admit that Japan is not "safety country" to acknowledge this, it will only happen when individual citizens begin to take active responsibility for their own safety.

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I haven't lived in Japan long but I have noticed how absolutely prescribed life is here and I wonder if this is part (and only part) of the problem.

I don't simply mean people reacting adversely to being so controlled (clearly that is not an issue with most Japanese) but rather that if everything you are supposed to do every day is structured for you (to the point as even as a professional, white collar, adult your lunch hours are regulated by bells) you simply never learn to regulate your own behaviour. Thus, when it occurs to you that you could kill someone with a knife (and that strikes you as either a solution to a problem or just something interesting to do) and there is nothing specifically regulating you in the moment not to do it then it is likely you will do it.

The answer is not more social regulation from without (which can never be sure of addressing every situation and, history show, will eventually cause rebellion) but to teach people to honour others equally with themselves so that there is an internal regulator which stops such crimes.

In other words, despite getting there in a different way, exactly the same thing that needs to be taught in countries with higher crime rates, too.

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Interestingly, I interviewed a Japanese man the other day who said that conformity has gone UP considerably in the last 40 years. He blamed the schools.

Much like the "Under God" in the American Pledge, the idea of conformity in Japan is treated as some kind of inherent tradition, despite the fact that both seem to be only 50 years old or so.

The inability to address change and deal with turmoil is made worse by regressive thinking: i.e. "let's go back to...whatever."

People aren't built to be put BACK into a box. Especially if that box is defined by a history that is, let's be honest, more trend than longtime standard. The guy I interviewed said that while individualism wasn't rampant in the past, it wasn't nearly as pronounced as it is now, and he placed the blame firmly on the educational system.

My ultimate point is one that's been made about Japan a million times: repression is not a virtue, and it WILL bite you in the ass. "Society" can't really do much about these individuals as they exist now. All it can really do is try to improve its direction, and wait for the symptoms of its past mistakes to burn themselves out.

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I think to a large degree this is about most people sleepwalking through life. Not paying attention to what is going in front of them and certainly not wanting to get involved in someone else's problem or concern.

head in the clouds "la-la-la" or perhaps more likely, head focused on the keitai "la-la-la"

meanwhile should someone approaches them with a knife, they aren't even aware of the danger.

the guy in akihabara running around with a knife and folks are watching and filming it... sad state of affairs that.

how can society address the problem ?

how about teaching kids to actually pay attention to what is going on in their general environment. They teach them to raise their hand to cross the street, or to say "ojamashimasu" when entering someone's home or business.

The sheer number of people who saunter right up to the edge of the sidewalk, with cars whizzing by, not paying any attention to incoming traffic just flaunts a darwin award.

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I think it stems from a vague but deeply implanted victim mentality, particularly prevalent in the run up to the anniversary of Japan losing the war. Over the years the facts have become vague, but the emotions are pervasive.

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Not quite some14some, I'm hardly "ignoring" the problem, because there is nothing to "ignore." And the fact that the media in Japan is focusing on these senstational stabbing incidents is proof enough that this problem is NOT being ignored. All the theories here are irrelevant and absolutely without merit in terms of what motivates people to go out and stab people and kill strangers for whatever reason. People kill because they are inclined to do that. They are sociopaths and hardly unique to Japan. Blaming lack of individualism and free thinking and free will in Japan as a root cause of criminal behavior is absolutely false, and quite frankly, insulting to the people of Japan. If this were the case then you would not see people in other countries, that supposedly have limitless freedom, opportunities, and free will, commit murders and other acts of violent crime. It never fails to amaze me the amateur psychologists and experts here with their false assumptions and analysis.

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Hey, THese people have grown up without discipline, and without learning old fashioned christian values.

Lots of these stabbings are carried out by kids, i blame the parents for not supervising their kids, allowing violent video games etc.

The cycle of violence has gotta stop, and the family has the duty to provide a decent environment for each other.

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Have we established there has been a spate? Without looking at the statistical data, this claim is dubious.

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In Japanese schools, starting from elementary all the way up to university, kids aren't being taught about good manners anymore. When did you see last time a teenager stand up and give a seat to elderly person on a train? It goes way back to sixties when poor parenthood skills started taking effect. Kids can now break the whole supermarket and being unsupervised while parents are shopping. When parents see what their child has done they simply say "yamette kudasai, hontoni yamette..." If my child did something like that trust me he/she would never again get such an idea. Kids grown in this way turn into cold people without any love for environment, parents or not even to mention people on the street that they stab with knife for sporting "stress relief"... Watch your back! Keep your eyes wide open! Be on constant lookout! If you see some idiot stabbing someone take the nearest bicycle as your weapon and smash it onto attacker's head without any remorse and then take his knife away and let someone call the police while you're still holding the attacker in arm lock for police to take over. Times are sure changing and once safe country is slowly becoming a dangerous place to live unless you watch your back.

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Already too late for too many in this society, this is why over 33,000 people commit suicide each year in this country. Their exit methods are the problem and its affecting the innocent.

One major reason for crimes against innocent bystanders and not just with knives is "I want to get the death penalty". This happened with the stabbing spree about 3 months ago at a station where 7 people were knifed. The following week a teenager killed a random salaryman who just finished a long day at work by pushing him off the platform and onto an oncoming train for the same reason. Over thirty self gassing incidents this year alone caused major problems with hundreds of innocent bystanders in surrounding areas suffering from toxic poisoning. Then there are the daily railway related suicides which affect thousands of commuters.

Wanting to die is an unfortunate fact in Japanese society.

Its a sad state, but government aided suicide is needed for those hell bent on ending their life.

There should also be a new classification for random attacks on multiple victims, hanging after a drawn out 10 year trial is a joke. Something similar to Saudi Arabia "chop-chop square" comes to mind, this should act as a deterrent. This form or other slower more painful forms of punishment should help stop the current execution method being the actual motivation for committing the crime.

I can only feel for the friends and families, who lose loved ones from these inhumane and senseless attacks. The perpetrators need to loose all human rights and be disposed of quickly.

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Nessie -

Very valid point. Actually I hope it is a spate; rather nasty to think that people have been being stabbed daily up and down the countryas a matter of course and it's only now that we're hearing abut it.

rjd jr -

Very well said.

chinpira -

Everyone 'knows' that Japan has a higher suicide rate than any other country, and everyone 'knows' the cause lies in the unique, distorted Japanese society. So how do you explain the fact that 20 countries, including Finland, Belgium, Austria, France and Switzerland all have higher male suicide rates than Japan? For the 15-24 age group, Japan is pushed into 31st place, eclipsed by, among others, New Zealand, Norway, Canada, Australia, US, Sweden, Denmark and Germany. Is it 'already too late' for those societies, too?

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Stabbing people at random is just another form of mental instability. The stabbers are people who are desperately seeking help and attention. It just so happens that they are using knives to get their message across. They should have received help long before they carried out their desperate acts. Someone, surely, must have known the mental condition, frame of mind of the perpetrators. Perhaps too many people have iPods and iPhones plugged into their brains to take any notice of what is happening in the real world.

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The only "spate" going on is that of sensationalized saturation coverage by Japanese TV news agency of anything remotely lurid. This practice seems modeled after the 24/7 entertainment produced by CNN (whose producers mislabel as "news"). It is immensely profitable. It has all the predictable results.

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First problem is communication. If all is resumed to "iii tenki desu neee ?" or other short messages, how to communicate ? If communication will exist maybe many troubles will disapear or at least it will reduce the incidence. Communication must start from inside family, and also in the social group - school, university, job. And communication means not only "hear what the boss (teacher) say", it means a conversation where all the involved ones are telling what they like to say. Hoe can somebody "feel that something is wrong in somebody's brain", if that somebody is never specking ? To guess, it is impossible even for doctors.

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Cleo-

I'm not comparing Japan's suicide rate to that of other nations I'm sure as you point out that Japan is not the leader here... the point is that many suicides in Japan directly affect innocent bystanders with the methods used in each suicide... whether it be jumping in front of a train, Jumping off a building (young girl jumped of the Parco building in Ikebukuro 3 months ago killing the man she landed on) gassing themselves or mass killing to receive a death sentence.

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Some readers are just commenting on others comments without touching the subject e.g. cleo . JT may remind the readers that the subject is : what do you think is causing the recent spate of random stabbings in Japan and how can soceity address the problem?

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Sorry if I seem cynical, but the "recent spate of random stabbings" in Japan is a fad. Same as the family-member murdering/dismembering fad more than one year ago, or the suicide/neighbor homicide by hydrogen sulfide fad a few months ago (not sure that one's completely over, though). As such, it will sooner or later go away. Nip individuality in the bud and you get little robots!

The dysfunctional mental state of the larger part of the Japanese society, however, is not temporary. And waiting for the current fad to go away is, of course, not a solution, not only because it would be morally wrong to do so and more lives would (and, unfortunately, will) be lost in a meaningless way, but also because something else is sure to come up and "inspire" these people who need to vent their anger and are unable to find a less violent way to do it.

Yeah, let's ban long, double-blade knives and cleaning solutions and... what else? Banning the "tools" will always be useless, for a very simple reason: a desperate individual who wants to harm those around him/her will easily find a way to do that (or, in the case of disturbed Japanese individuals, an alternative source of inspiration). Hell, if I, right now, have a sudden urge to kill or at least severely maim someone, I can find within my reach at least 2-3 "tools" to do it. And I'm at my desk, not in the kitchen or in some workshop.

So, "preventing" is not stopping somebody who decided to kill or hurt people to vent their anger at... who knows what or who. Preventing is either providing that person with an alternative, safer way to deal with their anger, and/or thinking of ways to diminish the chances that your average Tanaka-san reaches such a level of mental distress.

How can "society" do that? Well, let's look around for a moment, shall we? If we consider the lives of most Japanese people, I'm sure we can see where the anger and the idea that "randomly killing unknown people on the street is the way to go" comes from. Yeah, these have become clichees, but it's true:

manga and tv-dramas don't help on morality issues; commonplace overtime work doesn't do any good to people's state of mind and definitely increases work-related stress, especially since that overtime is done not because you want to finish a task or you feel that you cannot rest until you do that, but because you know your boss and coworkers expect nothing less of you, in an otherwise meaningless job unsatisfying social relationships (family, friends) deny people exactly the kind of emotional outlet and support they need when life becomes too much.

Speaking of which: God may have given you your family, and you're stuck with it, but the Company did not give you friends, it gave you coworkers! Learn the difference, for there is one, and sometimes it's huge. It will save you all the disappointment and keep you from thinking that your "friends" don't appreciate you. Simple rule: if someone does not appreciate you (or even like you that much), it means they're not your friends, and you shouldn't take their opinion about you as absolute truth. Learn to trust yourself more, and find some real friends, people who understand and relate to you, and you'll see how fast life gets better!

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a trend... like hello kitty... hope it will end and become forgotten like everything else.

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It's just a fad...a couple of months ago all the cool depressed kids were offing themselves with H2S.

Now the hip thing is to stab a few people to show the world your angst.

Next month it probably be swallowing a live fugu and slowly dying as your body digests it - you heard it here first!

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Thats a tough one. I think society has been whipped up by a huge vortex and they cant set themselves free. It could be related to the militaristic ways at school and at work. I think it drives them to the point where they cant really do something outside the ordinary. Dont get me wrong I have met a lot of cool Japanese people. Many who have been very helpful. But its when you take things outside the box. Thats when things change. I passed out on the train last year on the way to work and not one person helped me. When I came about everyone was just staring like I was a monster. I couldnt believe it. This is an example of being in a lost world. They just couldnt figure out what to do. It`s confusing but as long as there is oppression and group thinking in society expect people to flip out quite often. To be honest I think many people in Japan have just given up or lost confidence. There is a lot of potential in Japan but there needs to be some major changes.

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rjd_jr the media makes a big fuzz of it but the goverment ignores it or focuses on non-trivial matters like banning certain knives.

The problem is how japanese society deals with problems at home or at work. It is shamefull to show weakness or defeat. so people just stuff it and slowly turn into timebombs, there is no way in japan to create a dialog to resolve matters. It realy means that Japanese society needs to change as a whole (but i do not see that happening).

But for now? Say mental problems are ok and bring in the shrinks to talk to people who want to kill themslves and/or others for meaningless reasons

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I just hope that some foreign worker/teacher etc. doesn`t encounter such a horrific situation. I wonder what would happen then. I also wonder if you defended yourself and actually disarmed the attacker would you be punished for hitting them or injuring them. This is Japan.

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Cleo-

No, definitely not any sicker. Murdering any innocent by-stander is pure evil no matter what the method. My point is that in Japan many suicides affect innocent by-standers by accident and are a bi-product of the suicidee's chosen method. However in some cases the only reason for the killing is to then turn themselves straight into the koban to be processed with the hope of receiving the death penalty. The links you provide are not so, the difference is that these people wanted to take out a few people before they go. This often not the case here, the killing is a means to an end.

So in direct response to this poll:

People determined 100% to commit suicide need a clean method to end their lives with zero impact on others. There needs to be a stronger deterrent aimed at people who commit mass stabbing or any other murder spree.... hanging is not a deterrent for this group.
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Japan is suffering a national mental health crisis and has no structure to address it. Psychological care here still carries a strong stigma and the resources available are very limited.

There are many reasons for this mental health crisis. Some obvious causes are:

Overwork and work stress Lack of work/life balance Lack of protection against work related abuse and ill treatment. Increasing number of working poor. Increasing economic and financial strains. Diminished employment security and stability. Social pressure to suppress stress rather than seek positive outlets for it. Declining social fabric and increasing alienation and isolation of individuals in Japanese society. Increasing number of people who are disenfrancised. Declining interpersonal interaction as more and more people turn to computers, cell phones and media rather than social connections.

How to fix it?

Address labor laws to improve working conditions and employee protections. Legislate and enforce work life balance measures. Improve mental health care awareness and information sharing with the public. Provide a stronger mental health care structure and system with better resources for people to turn to. Fund and support more community and neighborhood outreach and other programs to get people reconnected with communities. Teach employers and others how to recognize danger signs.

Don't ignore the problem. Resolve it.

economics and the rising number of working poor, long hours for overworked employees and t

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Well, let's start with the idea of suicide as an honorable act, and then branch out, asking if taking your children with you when you commit suicide is also honorable. Some people strongly believe so. Now how about taking strangers with you? Is that honorable, too? Is there a case when suicide is not honorable? When is that? How about murder in itself? Is it ever justifiable?

Now maybe in Japan's history, suicide might have made sense as an act to avoid dishonor to one's family, and maybe murder could be justified in some way as well, but I don't think that line of thought can be argued very well in today's society.

Still, I'm afraid that when people are frustrated, upset, disappointed, and so on, suicide will seem like a good idea, and if killing yourself is a good idea, I don't think it's much of a moral leap to kill others, since both ideas require one to not see the ultimate effects of one's actions, which affect many people besides oneself.

And then, people need something to live for as well, but that's another story. Society will address these problems when society has reached its limit. This will be some time off, I'm afraid.

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tkoind2: great explanation, now even if they follow half of it crime rate will go down drastically. Unfortunately i do not think it happening now or in near future.

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I believe that Japan is a high-stress society. Far be it from me to suggest that Japan should make drastic changes but, that being said, Japan should make psychological help easily available in the form of anger management hot lines. Group therapy for people who are "stressed out" is a good deterrent. These ideas are only effective if the stress-challenged person wants and SEEKS help. Co-workers and neighbors could also be made aware of symptoms of excessive stress when they see it.

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Conditions in Japan are very much like the conditions of this thread of posts on the topic. There are three general categories:

1) Those who care enough to look at the issue, analyze it and discuss it. They are the ones who believe that there is something inherently off kilter with Japanese society and that conditions can be improved. (I hear many Japanese say in passing that their society is "sick.") 2) Those who live in denial of any inherent problems within the society, and who are fatalistic as to the causes, and so totally absent from any potential remedy -- and even resistant to any positive steps taken to suggest remedies. 3) The people who are so nihilistic, cynical, or turned-off that they would never even give the time of day to this or any other such discussions. (The non-posters, and the kinds who do the stabbing as well.)

Societies have all three types at all times, but I think the problems come when those in groups 2 and 3 start to significantly outnumber the first group. And the key to that increase is the attitudes of people in Group 2, and how much they are able to influence others to their point of view. Just as an individual must examine his or her conscience and reflect on behavior (hansei), society must also have a vehicle for doing the same. The people in the second group will resist such measures because such things are an admission that there are deep flaws within their society, and to suggest such a thing would be perceived as an "insult."

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Passive-aggressive country - nothing direct - let everything boil over

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Overall, Japan's society is crumbling from the inside outward. The forces of change being exerted by the younger people in Japan are running into a wall of opposition by the older people living in Japan. A new Japanese society and a new Japanese language are both evolving and wanting to be born. This change has been noted by the officials and people in power in Japan, and they have attempted to clamp down on it, similar to the past mass executions done in order to control the tide of society and people in Japan, where whole towns just vanished overnight, rather than that the new age is causing spot people to vanish out of the blue. This void is noticed by society on a subliminal level, as the corruption of police and officials reaches new heights, and the general xenophobia that exists against all non-Japanese ethnic groups combines to make an era where "Japanese citizens do no crimes" and everything is scapegoated to anyone non-Japanese that happens to be in the area. This heightened sense of being able to "get away" with anything because they are Japanese, coupled with the heightened "useless people" syndrome where anyone with disabilities, who fails at anything, or otherwise is not generally liked by the "popular" crowd is automatically "useless" and deserves to die or be killed, has spawned a new era in Japan where it is slowing becoming acceptable to actually kill off those people feel are "useless" or "unwanted" - which could be anyone, because each person has their own list of who is "useless" and "unwanted". This backpressure created by the government is now feeding upon society itself and the corrupted infrastructure that currently supports it. It is something that cannot be sustained, and will probably overflow into full scale mass deaths around the country before something has to fail and fall. The current power structure has to end abruptly - either through it's own destruction, or by mass resignations, followed by a purge of all corrupted officials everywhere in Japan, and new leadership has to arise from the youngest generation in Japan to fill the void. The current Japanese language has to also be allowed to evolve to it's fullest, which will create a new blended language that will probably become a fad language that could itself evolve into a universal language that everyone in the world can use.

But I doubt very much that this positive outcome will happen - absolute power corrupts absolutely, and those in power do not want nor desire any change unless it gives them more power - and Japan is a society that inherently worships such power and power structures, which will give rise to it's ultimate downfall.

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Society has always had crazies and always will, however Japan is changing no longer do Japanese have a job for life. No longer are people staying in their own community and this is the biggest problem. The system of support that came from living in small units with one person as a community leader is breaking down as young people seek the same independance as Westerns have. This means stress levels rise and people who have border line mental problems succum to the extra pressures. They are no longer protected from harsh reality by friends and neighbours who have always made allowance for their "strange" behaviour. The school yard bullies are no longer stopped from picking on them by older kids because parents no longer teach their children that they have responcibility towards the community. These "strange" people turn inward and fantasy takes over their lives. To make matters worse when they do some crazy act the law sends them to some doctor who puts them on medication and then pushes them back into society with no one making sure that they keep taking their pills. Some of these people put back into society are so dangerous that parents after spending years pleading with authorities the lock their children away, have tried to kill their own kids or asked some one else to do it for them. A massive amount of money and a completely new way of handling mental health issues is needed along with new laws to bring mental health services up to scratch. Until this is done the problems will continue as more and more people with border line mental illness tip over the edge of no return. Not through fads but by the ignorance and fear of mental illness of politicians who keep throwing the problem in the too hard basket instead of providing better services to society.

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Confining this to the "recent stabbings" greatly undermines the larger problem of similar crimes that have occured for decades. The problems and causes are: Poor family relationships caused primarily from over work, "idol" culture and the obession with the sexualisation of girls, especially young ones and exploiting them on tv,and thirdly the unwillingness of people to help those with problems or recognise individuality, excluding them from the rest of society.

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A dysfunctional, immature society which places more value on designer goods than human life. Japan is a place where the only acceptable emotion displayed is anger. Endless repression of the individual for the good of the corporation doesn't work. These displays are a breakdown of the social contract. Solution: radical reform. But first you have to admit you have a problem! And Japan will never do that. It believes that it is a perfect, unique, chosen race and people. Like the other one!

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I live in the UK, and knife crime is increasing day by day here. The Government has tried Knife and Gun Amnesties, increasing police on the streets, targetting known gang members and yet nothing is working. The only way, in my view, to cut down knife crime is to severely increase the jail sentence from a standard 18 months to 5 years minimum without a chance for getting out of jail early. Increase the discipline and strictness in prison so that the offenders would think twice about doing something that bad again to end up there. We've thought of bringing back National Service in this country, as in the early 20th century when it was first introduced, crime amongst youths fell dramatically. If it was introduced as a compulsary measure to anyone who is seen as a menace to society or anyone who can't be bothered to get a job, then hopefully it will deter them from doing what they are doing now and motivate them into making a new life for themselves.

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Totally Agreed with jadedsun. removing the death penality,and replacing it with life sentence is a good medecine for the mentality (sickness?) that chinpira was talking about. sorry for the short comment.

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What do you think is causing the recent spate of random stabbings in Japan?

Uhhhh, lack of guns?

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