TOKYO – Japan is facing its highest suicide rate in 30 years among young people, according to recent government statistics. A frightening trend is the growing number of children killing themselves over bullying and school pressure.
There have been different reasons given why suicide remains so prevalent here, but Christians here say ignorance of God could be why so many desperate Japanese take their own lives.
Aiko Kudou still finds it hard to believe that her childhood friend committed suicide.
"How can he take his own life and leave behind his family in misery? He got depressed when his mother did not approve the school of his choice. He ran away from home. After three days they found him dead in a park restroom. He cut his wrist and bled to death," Kudou recalls.
The suicide rate among young Japanese has risen to its highest level in three decades. According to the Ministry of Education, 250 elementary and high school students committed suicide last year.
Reports say, based on the suicide notes left by these kids, bullying is the top reason that pushed them to end their life.
Pastor Miyahara Tatsuhiro says, "Being part of a group is very important in our culture. And that is why, if the child is different physically, he is always bullied."
Pastor Miyahara says people who take this route often lack purpose in life. Throughout history, Japan has lacked a dominant religion. Religion is perceived as tradition, not a way to find purpose. And religion is not a priority. Japanese seek other ways for fulfillment.
Mina Kuboi gives free hugs at the Shibuya train station. "I give free hugs because I want people to relax," she says.
When asked if she knows about Jesus and if she thinks religion is important, she says, "Yes, but for me it's not important."
Less than 1% of the Japanese population is Christian. This is why Pastor Miyahara is committed to sharing the gospel. He preaches outside the train station each day as people head home from work.
"Jesus commanded me to share the gospel and that's what I do. Some stop and have a conversation with me. That's when I tell them about Jesus' love and sacrifice for them. And I also get the opportunity to lead them to prayer," he says.
Pastor Miyahara believes Christ can solve the suicide problem by helping desperate people find hope and a reason to live.