The witness of two suicides in Tokyo remains within my psyche
Lee Jay Walker
Modern Tokyo Times
Tokyo is an amazing city and the environment is buzzing with fashion and from every corner of this vibrant city you can feel the energy of each new day. However, being from a distant land I prefer to remain in the shadows and my inner-city upbringing in Manchester stays with me.
I have wandered around many parts of Tokyo and places of interest apply to Edogawabashi, Komagome, Nippori and Seijo. I also like more popular places like Harajuku, Ebisu, Omotesando and Yurakucho.
However, my local area is none of the above and I will remain tight lipped about where I like to hang out because I have had many death threats related to writing about terrorism.
Like all individuals who have moved to a new nation each person will see things differently. I have no time for Japanese Buddhism because it is clear that many Buddhist clerics reside in an ivory tower.
Also, more people kill themselves every year in Japan than people who have just died because of the March 11 earthquake which unleashed the devastating tsunami. The annual figure in recent times is more than 30,000 suicides a year but little is being done to change the mindset or prevent suicide in Japan.
The only trade that Buddhists seem to care about is death because they can make a bomb from this business providing you have enough money.
Hikikomori is also a huge social problem alongside suicide and while Tokyo is rich in culture and a fantastic place to reside. The negative side is the loneliness of many individuals or the stress of working life because companies expect too much from their workers.
I love the fashion of Tokyo and the modern landscape alongside the low crime rate. It is factual that Tokyo is one of the great cities of this world and the infrastructure shames London and Paris.
This not only applies to the sprawling no-go areas of inner-city London and Paris but clearly gang related violence and everyday crime in both London and Paris are destroying too many areas.
My beloved Manchester which is rich in culture and history is also blighted by gang violence and drug related issues. Yes, drug issues also apply in Tokyo but not to the same level of the cities that I have just mentioned in Europe.
Turning back to suicide then I have witnessed two individuals kill themselves and clearly both events have stayed within my thinking. The first suicide was a young man who jumped to his death in Tobu Nerima from a flat that he resided in.
The second suicide was a young lady who just jumped in front of a train at Harajuku train station. This suicide really had long term effects because it was like watching a vacuum cleaner sucking up dust.
Everything seemed so natural and she just vanished within the blinking of an eyelid and it was like the train had beckoned her to her death.
Both suicides happened within one year and despite seeing blood all over and hearing the crack of bones hitting the street in Tobu Nerima; it was not the death of the man which stayed with me but the ghost of the young lady who killed herself in Harajuku.
Of course, some people will snigger and deny that ghosts exist and how can I deny these claims? However, something stayed with me for over a year and sometimes I could feel her spirit close to me.
Irrespective if this was my mind playing a trick or it was reality; it seemed natural to me and sometimes I felt the passion of her spirit strongly but in time it faded and now I rarely feel anything unless I am in Harajuku.
It seems strange how I view both suicides because I saw the last few seconds of a dying man in front of my eyes in Tobu Nerima. The blood was visible and the noise stays with me and I always cross myself in the sign of the Orthodox cross when I walk past the same building.
However, when I first saw the naked body I was unsure if the person was male or female because it was late at night. Yet when I was close up it was obvious that the body was male and somehow this calmed me and maybe this is a natural instinct or a safety mechanism?
I don’t really know why this soothed my pain but the behavior and coldness of people nearby shocked me because I immediately asked for help but some people seemed disinterested. It is true that only about 6 or 7 people were near at the time but words like “baka” (stupid) from a person who was drunk was too much.
I also remember that when the young girl just gave up on this world that some people were just complaining because of train delays. Not everybody, of course; but a few people was clearly annoyed because it was relatively early in the morning (just before 10am) and I presume the stress of work got the better of them.
I have seen this coldness before when an old man collapsed in Asaka (Saitama) and was bleeding and several times I have seen young ladies faint or were visibly distressed. Apart from two occasions when people helped quickly the norm was to ignore or to turn a blind eye.
I have resided in Japan on and off for ten years and like most Tokyoites several trains have been cancelled because of suicide. However, to visually see two people kill themselves then it isn’t easy when I have to re-visit both places.
Four strange events took place after seeing the young lady kill herself.
Firstly, this applies to sitting in a coffee shop and talking with my friend who was trying to console me in Ikebukuro on the same day of the suicide in Harajuku. Then all of a sudden I saw a normal lady and the next minute I could only see a stone white face with no distinctive features.
This really spooked me out!
The second major event happened a few weeks later I was leaving Shinjuku around 6am in the morning and travelling via Odakyu Line to Seijo. I often like to walk to the final two carriages before entering the train.
All of a sudden I could see the back of a beautiful lady and then when I got on the same quiet carriage she had disappeared. Again, I can’t say if this was wishful thinking or if I was still in a daze because of past events. However, it seemed real at the time and still seems real today but having little sleep during the night then I try to think rationally.
The third major event is more deep rooted because watching her succumb to the train it all seemed so natural because she showed no fear and it was like it was meant to be. Therefore, I sometimes feel the force of the train beckoning people to jump and when I hear trains making a sudden noise in train stations this brings back flashbacks.
The fourth event was more pleasing because while I was on the Saikyo Line and passing through Harajuku I just felt that I was forced to gaze outside. Then all of a sudden I could see a beautiful lady but this time she was serene and everything appeared to be ok and it was like I was being told that her pain is over.
Again, it is clear that you have many images of ladies on advertizing boards and I had worked long hours the day before. Therefore, just like other times I have tried to view this rationally but it seemed real at the time and maybe I found an answer I wanted or maybe it was a flash that was meant to be implanted in my brain.
Today I am writing this because the hot summer is about to start in earnest and both suicides happened during the long hot summer.
Clearly the ghosts of the past or the images of the past remain within my psyche even if these events are more distant with each passing new day.