Ugh... there seem to be a lot of misunderstandings about Japan these days, and I don't blame you guys for it because Japan is a very isolated and
complicated country. I guarantee you, what the outside world hears about Japan through the media is not enough to understand what is actually going on
in the country.
I have family that lives in Japan, and I have friends who live in Japan, and I visit Japan every year so I have a decent idea of what is going on, and
why it has suicide rates up the way it is. Contrary to some of your beliefs suicide is not viewed as a noble or honorable act; Japanese people has
been westernized enough to believe that suicide is a shameful act, parallel to quitting, giving up, showing weakness, all of which are intensely
looked down on in Japan.
One of the big differences between Japan and America is the school system. The extent to which school plays a part in a Japanese student's life is
frightening to say the least. I went to school in Japan over the summer in 2nd and 4th grade, and we had to go to school Monday-Friday and on every
other Saturday up until the end of July... so summer vacation is only about a month long. I stayed at my cousins house with my aunt and uncle, and
they wouldn't let us play outside after 5 PM because after that time was study time until we went to sleep. In class, in both 2nd and 4th grade, I
remember the teacher would hit students who were lazy or disruptive. Once a week we would also clean the floor of the classroom and the hallways. Even
at this young age, kids were being strictly disciplined. Remember, this is just elementary school...
When students get to middle school, they typically go to a public school in the morning and early afternoon, and then go to a cram school at night,
and they get homework from both schools. The purpose of the cram school is to prepare for the high school entrance exam, which is just as big a deal
and possibly harder than the SATs. High school in Japan is a huge deal, kids have to get into a good high school in order to get into a good college
so they can get a good job in an intensely competetive job market. Most kids go to private high schools, and have to take the train to get to their
high school. My friend is a senior in high school and he sleeps about 5 hours a night because of school and homework, and he also has to ride the
train for an hour to get to his high school. He has to wake up around 5 AM to get to school on time.
So as you can see, there is almost no leisure time for the Japanese student. Even activities that are meant to be fun are twisted and used to
discipline kids. My friend was in orchestra and was by far the best at violin, but in his orchestra they would practice the same song over and over
for an entire semester, a song he could play by sight. So he questioned the teacher about playing such an easy song over and over, and he got kicked
It seems like a student's value is based only on his or her grades. It is easy for us to look at Japan and comment on how wrong it is for kids to be
worked so hard, but kids in Japan don't have the perspective we do because they are born into this system and raised by this system, and accept this
system. And it is a system that has not changed for decades because there is no political authority in Japan powerful enough to push for change. Born
into this kind of system, if someone feels like he is not good enough to succeed in this system, or is overwhelmed by stress, he/she might commit
suicide because it seems like the only way out. Japan wants to have the number one economy in the world, and as this article states, it will be
rutheless towards its own people in achieving that goal.
edit on 29-10-2010 by Wang Tang because: don't worry about it