Locals Give Their Thoughts on Japan: Suicide, Work, Depression, and Travel

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“When it comes to suicide in Japan, I think everyone has thoughts of it when they have huge problems or are very depressed. I’ve thought of suicide lots of times in my life. Sometimes if I have problem and I’m not sure how to fix it, I feel I should disappear because it feels depressing and I feel the pain by myself. If I eat, take a shower, or whatever, it’s just pain and hell. But I’ve never tried to kill myself.

I had a friend from New Zealand and he was a very happy guy. After I returned to Japan, I heard that he killed himself. I didn’t know what he was thinking or his reason for it, but it was sad. I think of my family who need me and how they would feel if I’d commit suicide, and it’s just sadness. My father was also gone when I was younger. I think he may have wanted to live longer but couldn’t; when I think about these things, I can’t commit suicide.

You need to be yourself and focus on your mind because the answer is there, in your mind. No matter what, people want to be alive, they don’t actually want to kill themselves. It’s just they feel they have no choice because they’re depressed and can’t find hope, so they do it. But humans have a lot of stress, especially in Japan, due to the strict rules and image set for us. In Japan, we have a lot of things that are ‘have to’s’ of what we need to do, and those things make me feel like I need to be another person and can’t be myself. But I can be myself, we all can, and not be so strict.

If I become depressed and decide to kill myself, I’m letting someone kill me, and that someone is me. My body and heart is not only mine. Inside, there’s another me inside.  So if I kill myself, it’s the same as doing it to other people; it’s still taking a life away. I feel like I have a responsibility to protect this guy, inside of me, because only I can protect this guy. If I try to kill myself, then who’s going to protect me? They have no way to protect themselves from me. I need to protect this guy, like my spirit, but it’s deeper than that. It’s kind of complicated.

I can feel a lot of different feelings and it’s difficult to explain, but it’s a mental illness: dissociative disorder. For example, I feel like I’m just watching my life, and myself, on the TV. It’s like I’m two different people. I’m me, watching me. If I laugh, it’s like I’m watching someone else laugh. It’s difficult to explain.

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In Japan, we have to give about two months notice to quit. Some companies don’t even allow you to quit, so you can’t escape. They’ll make us feel responsible for the team being short staffed. So, we feel we need to be there and are trapped. But if you get depressed, you have to just quit and go. If you leave, it’s their problem, not yours. Sometimes we make it our problem and continue to stay, but it’s not good. It’s difficult to get out of the situation, but sometimes we really need to escape from it. Talking about my situation or experiences to others also helps me tidy up my mind and I’m able to realize new things.

When you get depressed, you need to take a rest and not think about anything. Go to a natural environment and focus on your mind, in the correct way. If I have a busy mind, it’s difficult to focus on my true mind. Like the movie Into the Wild, he was really smart, but he took everything away and went into the natural environment to find himself. Just like that.

Being from the countryside of Japan, my family puts a big emphasis on finding a job. But if I find a job and stay there, then I’ll be in a safety net. I’ll then get married, have kids, and a family. That’s what my family wants for me. Most people think that’s just life and many Japanese don’t have time to focus or discover themselves because of it. They also don’t travel to other countries, so they only have one view: Japanese culture. They need to be more global, understand other mindsets, and discover new lifestyles. This opens their mind.

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I don’t care about the safety net. I don’t care if I’m poor. I just want to experience my life and focus on the things I really want to do. I’m 22, but many people in the countryside think that age is too old to learn new things and it’s kind of strange. If I go to New York, I’ll see someone in their 40’s or 50’s attend university and continue to learn new things. I want to go to university when I’m 25. I want to improve my English, study architecture, and learn Arabic. I don’t think it’s too late. I will learn new things and never quit learning new things.

When I was in junior high-school, I listened to rock music from the U.S. and U.K., then started to get interested in other cultures. I then met an American guy from Colorado who told me about different cultures and experiences while studying abroad. We hung out, surfed, and I learned so much. ‘Wow, I want to go outside to discover’, I thought. It was a bit of a culture shock, in a good way, to discover that. If I didn’t have the chance to meet him, then I might be like a normal, boring Japanese guy.

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I decided to travel to New Zealand and saw that they had a different lifestyle and view of thinking, which made me notice how narrow the Japanese mind is. So I tried to extend my mind and open it. I also went to New York for a year. That’s why I keep traveling around, even if it’s around Japan, to meet new people, places, and experiences, which can change everything.

Most people usually stay in the same place and environment. I don’t think that’s bad, but I just want everyone to be more open minded and global. It gives people more choices since they’re able to handle situations better because they have more than one view from their experiences. I have a New Zealand/New York mind, so it’s helpful and easier to understand other cultures.

Many Japanese people don’t see others travel, so they don’t think about it. My friends ask me how they could travel and I tell them my experiences and advice, then they start thinking of how they could do it too. But if they don’t have anyone who has traveled around them, then it’s difficult to do so. But even if you’re not able to travel right now, you can just read a book or watch a movie because they’re the same as a trip since it provides new experiences and views. The point is to discover a new world.”