First in a series

In January 2002, Toyoki Yoshida tried to hang himself in his father's factory in Saitama Prefecture, unable to bear the persistent calls from loan sharks demanding that he make his 4 million yen interest payment. His belt broke. He lived.

Yoshida, 34, said that 10 months earlier, he had taken out a 100,000 yen unsecured loan from an illegal moneylender charging usurious interest -- 45,000 yen in 10 days -- and had to borrow more from other loan sharks.