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Japanese Boy Kills Himself

on . TPL_WARP_PUBLISH . Posted in Blog.


This sad incident reflects several deep Japanese cultural values.

On March 8, 2016 the Japan Times reported that a 15 year old boy who had erroneously been told that he didn't meet the requirements to take the entrance examinations for a certain high school took his life.

His parents, concerned about the effect this could have on others children taking the exams, asked the board of education not to release the news for three months -- until after the exams were over.

Just a month earlier, another 15 year old and his mother hanged themselves after he had sat for a high school entrance exam.

We can easily see deeply rooted values revealed here. 

First, the importance of status, getting into a good high school so one can get into a good university leading to a good job is apparent.

Because of group identity, the loss of face is extended to the family and the lack of a good job means instability in a land where stability is highly desired.  

There is also a hint of murahachibu, being ostracized from the village or community for a disgrace, or at least the fear of it.

The traditional samurai, honorable way of dealing with shame was suicide by seppuku (hara-kiri). Clearly the cultural significance of shame/honor suicide persists.

Concern for others (especially in one's group) is also a deeply ingrained cultural value.  Hence the boy's parents sacrificed the possibility of being consoled by friends in order to make sure they did not inconvenience or disturb others in their community.

Cultural values run very deep in every society.  No culture's values are better or worse anothers, they just are.  

Even while deploring such a sad event, a large number of Japanese will understand the driving forces that fueled it, in the same way that Americans deplore mass shootings but many will still defend the independent, Wild West spirit that feeds the availability of guns in the U.S.

Do you agree or disagree?

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