A collection of suicides within the Japanese leisure world, together with actuality TV star Kimura Hana in Might, actor Miura Haruma in July and actresses Ashina Sei and Takeuchi Yuko in September, have raised questions on not solely their particular tragedies, but additionally circumstances in Japanese society as a complete which will have contributed to an upsurge in suicide deaths through the pandemic.
Understanding the mindset of the victims virtually too effectively is Matsubayashi Urara, who starred within the 2017 Ogata Takaomi drama “The Hungry Lion” as a young person who kills herself after a intercourse video goes viral and cruel social media bashing begins. Matsubayashi has additionally produced and stars on this 12 months’s “Kamata Prelude,” a four-part omnibus that examines sexual harassment within the Japanese movie business. “Simply imagining the act of killing myself makes my legs tremble,” she tells Selection. “However I’ve severely agonized about suicide and really considered doing it.”
Matsubayashi says that when she imagines leaping from a excessive place, “I’m not pondering of the faces of household, pals and those that have helped me; I simply need to escape from my current scenario and discover peace. I would like individuals to concentrate on me, to reward me, to care about me…That form of want has steadily grown within the remoted society of the coronavirus disaster.”
The Japanese have lengthy had a picture within the West as accepting and even embracing of suicide, with oft-cited examples being the samurai warriors and the kamikaze pilots of WWII. The fact, nevertheless, is extra advanced, with their self-inflicted deaths incessantly being compelled somewhat than chosen.
In modern-day Japan, components contributing to excessive suicide charges, by developed world requirements, are diverse and, within the case of superstar suicides, motivating components can vary drastically.
Within the former class is the demise of Kimura, who turned the goal of harsh social media assaults following her on-air altercation in March with a male participant on the favored actuality present “Terrace Home,” which discovered a worldwide viewers on Netflix. She posted the message “I’m sorry” together with her picture on Instagram and, on Might 23, tweeted that “I get almost 100 sincere opinions daily and I admit that I get harm.” Later that day, she ended her life at age 22. Not lengthy after her demise, the Fuji TV community canceled the present.
The suicides of Miura, Ashina and Takeuchi are more durable to parse. None left a observe and all had been bodily wholesome and professionally in demand on the time of their deaths.
However Takeuchi, who performed a feminine Sherlock Holmes in 2018 HBO collection “Miss Sherlock,” had given start to a child boy in January, her first youngster with second husband Taiki Takabayashi, whom she had married in 2019. She additionally had a 14-year-old son from a earlier marriage. “She might have been fighting postnatal melancholy, which isn’t talked about sufficient in Japan, nor are new moms given adequate assist,” says Vickie Skorji, director of the TELL Lifeline, a Tokyo-based psychological well being helpline.
There have been no media reviews of Takeuchi, Ashina, Miura or Kimura contacting one of many dozens of helplines in Japan, or in any other case getting skilled assist, although confidentiality phrases could possibly be an element.
“The stigma and the disgrace of getting a psychological well being drawback is way better in Japan than many different developed nations, which creates delays and limitations to getting remedy,” Skorji explains. “Everybody’s psychological well being is taking a battering in the mean time, and folks within the leisure business are not any totally different. Given that is an business that’s already full of excessive stressors and many media consideration, it’s not stunning individuals might have psychological well being points. Add COVID stressors on prime of those, and the disgrace related to getting assist makes this group very weak.”
Some within the business have opined that Miura, Ashina and Takeuchi lacked emotional assist from their respective companies in coping with the burdens of stardom, which have intensified through the pandemic. “They ought to offer seminars on emotional care to expertise managers,” an nameless company government informed the Shukan Josei Prime (Girls’s Weekly) leisure information web site.
“I consider that expertise have quite a lot of stress, particularly in the event that they characterize a company picture, with sponsors’ charges being an enormous a part of their earnings,” says Miyuki Takamatsu, founder and CEO of Free Stone Productions, a number one business PR and gross sales firm. “They don’t seem to be in a position to freely specific themselves of their private lives or of their opinions, political and in any other case. And the fundamental construction of the expertise administration enterprise will not be for the sake of the expertise.”
However Imaizumi Rikiya, a director who labored with Miura on the 2019 romantic drama “Little Nights, Little Love,” says that expertise managers and different workers he is aware of from Amuse, Stardust and different companies truly “give precedence to emotional care — they’re all good individuals.”
“They pay shut consideration to their relationships with expertise,” he provides, whereas advancing no theories of his personal about Miura’s demise.
In the meantime, the Japanese authorities has taken an lively function in lowering suicide numbers lately. A nine-step plan, introduced in 2007, aimed to decrease the suicide price by 20% by 2017. Suicides fell from a peak of 34,427 in 2003 to twenty,169 in 2019 — the bottom quantity since authorities started monitoring annual suicide figures in 1978, if nonetheless excessive by worldwide requirements.
This progress has been threatened by the pandemic, because the unemployment price in Japan crept up from 2.4% in February to a 21-year-high of three% by June. Nonetheless, from February to June, the variety of suicides dropped 10% in contrast with the identical interval final 12 months, based on statistics compiled by the Analysis Institute of Financial system, Commerce and Business (RIETI). In August, nevertheless, suicides rose by 246 month-on-month to 1,849, with girls accounting for 75% of the rise.
In analyzing these numbers, RIETI researcher Fujii Kazuhiko notes that ladies have borne the brunt of pandemic-driven job losses within the enormous private providers sector. As well as, by being compelled to spend extra time at dwelling, they’ve skilled extra home violence. “Girls proceed to search out themselves in conditions the place stress simply builds,” Fujii wrote in a column for the Enterprise Journal web site.
In the meantime, TELL and dozens of different psychological well being helplines, that are staffed by volunteers whereas being chronically underfunded, have been overwhelmed by the surge in demand for his or her providers.
In line with an April survey of 55 organizations engaged in suicide prevention work by the government-backed Japan Suicide Countermeasures Promotion Heart, 40% reported that they’d suspended actions, whereas 43.6% stated they’d needed to lower hours and workers as a result of coronavirus.
Given the dearth of business and social assist for psychological well being issues, the best way to outlive within the present period, says actor-producer Matsubayashi, is to “keep hungry and never lose sight of your self.”
“[Suicide] will not be an issue that may be solved tomorrow or the day after tomorrow,” she continues, “however I’m hoping for a society with out prejudice, the place individuals can mutually respect and change into nearer to one another. A society that might be on my aspect.”