Thursday, 2 June 2011

Black sea of trees 黒い樹海

 This post has three videos which is usually a bit much for me but in this case a picture is worth a thousand words considering the subject matter. One of the little known facts about Japan is the large number of socially isolated young males who live in seclusion. They are called Hikikosomi (ひきこもり or 引き籠もり, literally "pulling away, being confined") and often live in their bedrooms without venturing outside while indulged by their parents due to the loss of face for the parents in the local community.  According to Wikipedia,the psychologist, Tamaki Saitō estimated that there are one million Hikikosomi or 20% of the young Japanese male population. Michael Zielenziger, an American journalist stationed in Tokyo, in his 2006 book “Shutting out the sun: How Japan created its own lost generation” gives a similar number. Some of the main stressors for these youth are due to the adoption of neo-Liberal economic policies by Japan in the 1990s with its consequent effect of a movement from full time employment to a contingency labour force for many Japanese. For males in this country, a low status intermittent job is a load that is hard to bear both financially and socially.

Japan currently has the highest suicide rate and lowest birthrate (1.2) of all industrialized countries plus a rising incidence of untreated cases of depression. Depression is considered shame and not treated in the manner which it deserves. Some of the comments on Michael Zielenziger’s website are:

More than one million young adults shut themselves in their rooms for years as a time. These adolescents … withdraw from societies for months or years at a time, not going to class, not working, not even leaving their homes, and often not even abandoning their rooms. These recluses become wholly dependent on their mothers to feed them.

Three times as many people die each year in suicides than in car accidents. Japan's male suicide rate in particular had exploded and become the highest in the wealthy, industrial world.

Japanese women have systematically chosen not to marry and bear children. Today Japan has the lowest birthrate in the world. And beginning in 2005, Japan's population began to shrink in absolute terms, as more deaths than births were recorded. Within fifteen years, one in every nine Japanese will be over age 80.

Half of all unmarried men 18 to 34 tell government census takers that they have no casual companionship, friendship and certainly no regular sexual relationship with a female. 40 percent of all women are also equally lonely.

The final act for the Hikikosomi is often suicide and the Aokigahara forest at the base of Mt. Fuji is the preferred place due to its close proximity to Tokyo, dense brush and a famous novel called Kuroi Jukai (黒い樹海?) literally means "the black sea of trees," which is a colloquial name for the forest.  This 1960 novel by Seichō Matsumoto, a mystery and detective writer, about a young lover who commits suicide in the forest has become very popular over the years. His distinctive style about the corruption and moral dissolution of Japanese culture is very appealing to this particular audience. He is a master of post war nihilism as reflected in the ubiquitous lack of meaning in society. The following comment is from the Salem press website:

“In a Matsumoto novel, more than just the crime is under investigation; postwar Japanese society also undergoes interrogation. All imposters and pretenders–dishonest officials, pretentious academics, and social climbers--have their falsities exposed. Because Matsumoto's detectives see their society so clearly, with an outsider's detached perspective, usually they are able to get their man (or their woman). A combination of detective ability, dogged perseverance, and understanding of human behavior guides their search. When they fail, as is the case in Kuroi fukuin (1961; black gospel), bureaucracy is often the culprit. Matsumoto based Kuroi fukuin on an actual crime in which the prime suspect was a foreign Catholic priest and the victim was a Japanese stewardess. The investigation was disbanded after the Japanese government allowed the priest to return to his own country. Matsumoto wrote his novel both to spur public interest in the case and to protest its closure.”

The videos below explain the outcome and on the website it is stated that “the authorities sweep for bodies only on an annual basis “ and “the site holds so many bodies that the Yakuza (organized criminal underground) pays homeless people to sneak into the forest and rob the corpses.”

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