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Journals from Rikkyo, Japan

2008-10-31 Jinshinjiko

Perhaps it was inevitable, but I have encountered my first suicide related experience here in Tokyo. I had woken late that morning and did my best to hurry through breakfast. Alex and I left the dorm with only a few minutes till the next train, or so we thought! As we made the corner by the taxis, there was a line that stretched perhaps five times as far as every other morning before. We thought little of it as we intended to take a train and not a taxi, which would have cost a ridiculous amount anyway. We turned the next corner and climbed the escalator to find the normally crowded, but hustling station, stagnant. Completely packed body-to-body, like a pond with disturbances causing ripples here and there; no one was moving in. The only flow of movement was slowly trickling out of the station, as the subway line moving the other direction was still open for service. I quickly ran into a police officer and inquired as to what had happened. Jiko (accident) at 7:30, he replied. Then after five minutes or so they announced on the loud speaker that the trains would not start running again till 8:30. This was not good as class started at 9:00 and more than three absences equal a failing grade, not to mention the disrespect I fear displaying by not showing up. Nevertheless, what could we do but wait? We went back to the dorm where people slowly accumulated as they discovered what had happened. After some time, the Ryo-cho (dorm manager) emerged and explained that the accident had been in fact a jinshinjiko (a word to describe suicide specifically by jumping in front of a train). We managed to catch the last 20 minutes of class, of which our teacher was rather understanding. Unfortunately, the next day there was another incident of the same kind on another line and my classmate was late to school because of it! I cannot say that this was a traumatizing experience, because it was not. However, it did bring rumors and news excerpts about suicide in Japan that much closer to reality.

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