On the morning of Aug. 13, a 70-year-old Yokohama man hanged himself in his home -- driven over the edge by debt. In total, he owed 17 million yen to banks, consumer-loan companies and even his children and relatives. In addition, 1,120,000 yen of his debt was to eight yamikinyu (loan sharks).

Back in June, the man had joined Taiyo no Kai, a victims' support group in Tokyo's Ota Ward. Yoshio Honda, a volunteer at Taiyo no Kai who knew the man, could not hide his shock at this tragic death.

"I never thought it would end like this," Honda said. "He was just on the verge of having everything settled through filing for bankruptcy."