It’s no secret that Japan has one of the highest suicide rates in the world. There are even popular “suicide spots” within Japan where many people go every year to end their lives. One such area is Tojinbo in Fukui Prefecture, where the tall seaside cliffs overlook the ocean, and as many as 100 people every year choose to fall to their deaths.
However, that number has been declining in recent years, thanks to Yukio Shige, a 70-year-old retired police officer. He has made it his personal duty to patrol the area and talk to anyone who looks like they may want to jump over the cliffs, and he’s saved over 500 lives in the 11 years he’s been acting as personal seaside lifeguard.
And now he has a new role: the star of the movie that’s being made about his life.
During his last year as a police officer, Shige was assigned to work in Tojinbo. He was appalled by the number of bodies he had to fish out from the ocean beneath the cliffs, not to mention the authorities’ coldness in handling the suicide cases. After retirement in 2004 he stayed in Tojinbo, making it his mission to talk to the people he saw hovering near the edge of the cliffs and listening to what they had to say.
Shige’s methodology in dealing with potential jumpers is pretty straightforward: he just helps them get what they need. If they’re bankrupt, he goes down to the legal aid office with them; if they’re unemployed, he takes them to the unemployment agency; if they’re homeless, he takes them home with him. Together with his 77 other volunteers, Shige has brought the number of suicides in Tonjinbo down drastically to 15 or less per year.
Of course, Shige doesn’t let his accomplishments go to his head. He remains a somber realist, and reminds those who interview him that at least seven people have taken their lives elsewhere after leaving Tojinbo. Still, most of the potential jumpers he speaks with are happy just to have someone listen to them, someone they can vent to about their problems – without judging them – for potentially the first time in their lives.
And now Shige’s story is being made into a film. He has been interviewed by people from 15 countries in the past eight years, all of them anxious to get more information about the man whom they’ve heard has saved hundreds from suicide, and take lots of pictures of him as well.
But pictures can only tell so much of the story. The first group to film Shige came from Iceland in 2013. They made a documentary about Shige and other “suicide spots” in Japan and released it online.
But this year, Shige has received requests from Germany, Korea, France, Canada, and the U.S. asking to film him. In April, the French group came and spent two weeks filming Shige and his group, catching him saving potential jumpers several times on film. They plan on turning the footage into a fully fledged documentary that will hopefully spread the word about Shige and what he does.
Only July 4, an American production group arrived to take photos for materials related to the upcoming film. They spent a day taking pictures and interviewing Shige. Photographer Paul del Rosario said this about the movie they hope to make:
“The image of suicide in Japan is still very strong overseas, with most people imagining samurai committing ritualistic suicide or kamikaze bombers. However, I want Shige-san to help us change that image, through showing how he’s worked with and saved potential jumpers.”
Shige had this to say about the film: “All over the world, everyone has the same feelings about life. My hope is that this film’s message will transcend national boundaries and get people to think about life.”
The documentary about Shige and his work may not be the next summer blockbuster, but it sounds like it’s something that anyone who values what he’s doing can’t miss. And if you know someone who’s having a hard time, then do what Shige would do and help them get the assistance they need in their time of crisis.
Sources: Yahoo! News Japan, The New York Times
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Well, kudo's to him for doing some good in the world.
Bad writing: as many as 100 people every year choose to fall to their deaths.
Correctly: As many as 100 people in a year have chosen to fall to their deaths.
Actually, Wikipedia states that the average is 25.
Don't be misleading or sensationalize.
anderstungteist - your correction is wrong, the 25 average states that a citation is needed and the information is current as of more than 5 years ago.
The article seems to have done enough research to be vaild.
Give this man a medal!
No seriously, give him some greater recognition for his services.
A good man!
Every time I read about the incredible kindness of this man I am moved to tears.
The reward in the beyond of this is man is great..
That's nice! Thumbs up!
I think this is a general problem al over the world and if there were more people like Shige-san, there might even be less crime too !
It makes me wonder if more awareness needs to be raised among the Japanese about help that is available. Too many people here think in absolutes and believe that their situation is unique and hopeless (which it almost never is).
That man is a HERO.
Admirable man, I hope he gets due recognition in Japan. Can I assume there are adequate support services in Japan to assist with people contemplating suicide? JT, perhaps such information could be placed at the end of such articles?
Its nice to hear a story about someone doing something good than bad for a change. Top guy doing great work. There is not nearly enough support for mental health.
Good on this man, and BETTER on this man for also not letting it get to his head and keeping a somber attitude when faced with the fact that some people are just bent on suicide no matter what you try and do. It's good to have heroes like this in this day and age, when all a lot of people need is someone to earnestly listen to them. Perhaps instead of the usual lip-service, the Japanese government can get this man to try and give some input into how to put his methods to wider use in the nation, since it has basically the highest suicide rate in developed nations and groups like AKB being 'gate-keepers' doesn't accomplish anything.
A good Samaritan who knows that life is all about service and how to make life better for all.
Let's see how long it'll take a party to politicize him.
An uplifting article about a good hearted man who helps people in need. God bless this man for his commendable service.
A good man. He came face to face with the reality of wasted life at the bottom of those cliffs while he was still on active duty as a policeman and as an individual has done something about it in his retirement. As opposed to the "authorities’ coldness in handling the suicide cases". The "authorities" here do allow many clear causes of suicide to go unchecked.
Way to go, Yukio! You're a real hero!
A movie about this?! Zzzzzzzzzzzzzz
Good, selfless and kind person!