While other countries battle rising COVID-19 cases, Japan is seeing a different kind of spike – suicides.
More people in Japan have died by suicide in 2020 than from COVID-19. In fact, their suicide numbers in October alone outnumbered the nation’s total COVID-19 deaths in the first 11 months of the year.
One of the reasons for the rise in suicides is because Japan has a very group-oriented culture. Belonging to a group – whether it’s a family, a workplace, or some kind of community – and functioning within that group is incredibly important.
Pandemic shutdowns and solitary quarantines can cut individuals off from their group identity. As a result, many Japanese people are dealing with severe depression and anxiety.
Takeshi Takasawa with Asian Access says even online tools like social media and Zoom aren’t the same. “I’m talking with you now even though we’re miles apart, but this is a little bit different from face-to-face group talking [and] processing, and that is challenging for us and especially younger people who need heavy connection.”
Many single young people in Japan travel to Tokyo to work. Throughout the year, they make frequent visits to their families back home, but the pandemic has changed that too.
Takasawa says, “They’re told by their homeland family, ‘Please don’t come back. Don’t bring the pandemic. It’ll be bad. Grandma and Grandpa need to be protected so don’t come back.’”
It’s also hard for college students. “Many of the freshmen, they never went to campus. They never met anybody even though they entered school. Then all they see is a screen… They join a club or team but they practice separately.”
What Japan needs is hope – the kind found in Jesus. According to The Joshua Project, 97 percent of the Japanese population is unreached with the Gospel.
Pray for the people of Japan to find their hope and belonging in Christ alone.