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Asian Honor & Suicide

Asian Shame0 comments


Suicide has long been a way to preserve your family’s honor in Asia.  This sense of honor by suicide among the Japanese was most evident during the kamikaze pilots of World War Two.  The Japanese saw it as an act of bravery and sacrifice knowing that they would not return alive.  Death was seen as success to the kamikaze as opposed to the shame or disgrace associated with defeat, capture, or surrender.

This tradition of suicide over defeat dates back centuries to feudal Japan when the Japanese Samurai reigned.  The Samurai lived by the Bushidō code, meaning “Way of the Warrior-Knight”, whereby the accepted practice was to follow this code of loyalty and honor until death.  Consequently the Samurai way of glory was through death, thus the long tradition of honor associated with suicide.

Not surprisingly, this view of suicide as a means to preserve your family and culture’s honor still permeates among the Japanese today.  According to the World Health Organization, Japan has the highest suicide rate among Asian countries with more than 30,000 annually in its most recent report.

Taking your life is seen as an honorable way of atoning for public disgrace and expression of one’s deep sense of shame.  However, the climate towards social acceptance of suicide in Japan is changing.  The Japanese government is trying to lower the high suicide rate by enacting laws that levy fines to the families of those who commit suicide as a means to discourage this long-standing practice.  Needless to say, the prevalence of Japanese suicides offers a window to the shame-based pressure by the Asian culture to uphold honor at any cost.

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