Earth & Conservation

Why The Japanese See Honor In Suicide

Japan's attitude toward suicide is more complex than most. In Japan, there is the notion that suicide is a way to preserve a family's honor.

Historically, the Japanese have had uncommon views on suicide. Dating back to 12th century Japan, Samurai warriors would perform seppuku, or stomach cutting, a ritual suicide that provided a way to escape the enemy. They saw it as an act of preserving their honor. The practice largely faded after this time period and was outlawed in the late 19th century.

RELATED: Why Japan's Youth Are Becoming Hermits

However, ritualized suicide began to resurface in Japan during World War II. The Imperial government brought back much of the Samurai culture known as Bushido, which included these honor killings. WWII Kamikaze pilots became notorious for flying their planes into Allied ships. Seppuku even re-emerged in 1970, when the famous Japanese writer Yukio Mishima publicly drove a sword through his own stomach in protest of the westernization of Japan.

Does this history of honorable suicide affect modern day Japan? Today, suicide in Japan is most commonly influenced by depression, either due to poverty or the incredibly high demands of work. But many agree that Japan's romanticized views of suicide do still play a role. For example, a large number of suicides are "responsibility-driven" meaning that those who kill themselves are hoping to clear their debts with a life insurance payout, taking the burden away from their family. Most Japanese would likely agree that taking care of your family as your final act is quite an honorable thing to do.

Watch more Seeker:

Who Owns Your Body After You Die?

Read more about honor killings in Japan:

The Guardian: Japan - Ending the Culture of the Honourable Suicide

VICE: A Japanese Engineer Allegedly Committed Suicide Over a Bridge Collapse