Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Never let the truth get in the way of a sensational story

The number of people who took their own lives in Japan drastically increased in the aftermath of last year’s huge tsunami and the nuclear disaster it triggered, the government says.  A more than 20% rise in the amount of suicides in one month was likely attributable at least in part to the widespread anxiety Japanese society felt in the aftermath of the catastrophe, an official said.
In May last year 3,375 people killed themselves, more than 20% up on the same month a year earlier... (AFP)  http://www.japantoday.com/category/national/view/suicides-in-japan-spiked-after-march-11-disaster

AFP (Agence France-Presse) has continued to propagate the myth that suicides in Japan have risen drastically as a result of the earthquake, syndicating stories that are at best gross distortions.  It might make for dramatic headlines, but it is minimizing the resilience of the people in the most affected areas,  it's demoralizing for the people who are working hard to reduce Japan's suicide rate, and trivializes the complex reasons behind suicide in Japan.

There was  a spike in suicides in May following the earthquake but data released by the Cabinet Office last week shows that was an aberration for the year and overall there was a 3.3% decrease in suicide numbers nationwide.  This decrease also listed Miyagi and Iwate as among the top 5 prefectures to have had a decrease in numbers, Fukushima, and every other prefecture in Tohoku also registered a decrease.

The actual figures are here.


  Heisei 23 (red line) = 2011
  Heisei 22 (green line) = 2010
  Heisei 21( blue line) = 2009
  Heisei 20 (pale blue-green line) = 2008

Or in table form

For more detail and a prefectural breakdown see


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the info! Yeah- I hate it too when people try and sensationalize or otherwise bend out of shape-the truth!

Rurousha said...

If I ever read a story in a non-Japanese newspaper that is 100% unbiased about Japan, and doesn't immediately add "but" or "however" to anything remotely positive ... if I ever read that story, I shall promptly faint.

Japan isn't perfect, of course not!, but I wish the media would try to be just a tiny bit more professional. AAARGH!

Cecilia said...

It's become a dominant narrative - that suicides have increased dramatically. I am acutely aware of the reality of suicide, and I am not making light of it... just that the reporting is shamelessly wrong.

My limited exposure to the mechanics of press reporting here is that a lot of the foreign press don't speak Japanese and rely on local staff with their own axes to grind to chase up and translate stories. This report came from someone with a Japanese name working for AFP - it's such a lazy lazy story. Positive stories that are thoughtful.... unheard of - just problems (usually distorted) or weird and wacky Japan stories.

I am feeling rather disillusioned with Japan (though I know it's not Japan it's the Japan I see) at the moment - and I wish the real problems could be analysed constructively rather than this type of tripe getting published.

Rurousha said...

You've hit the nail (that sticks up) on the head: the shamelessly wrong reporting distracts from the real issues, and there's plenty of that!

Since we're ranting about the media, don't you wish they'd use another idiom just once instead of that done-to-death up-sticking stupid nail?!

Cecilia said...

When you've got a comfortable cliche, stick to it?