Scenic cliffs drawing suicidal idled part-timers

by Kanako Takahara

An increasing number of part-time workers thrown out of their jobs because of the recession and with nowhere else to go are heading to Tojinbo, a popular sightseeing destination — and suicide spot — in Fukui Prefecture, according to a local nonprofit organization.

The NPO, which regularly patrols the site, says that in November it talked six people out of jumping from Tojinbo’s famous cliffs overlooking the Sea of Japan.

Four of them said they decided to take their own lives after losing part-time jobs.

The group, Kokoroni Hibiku Bunshu, Henshukyoku (An Editorial Office Compiling Collections that Touches One’s Heart), did not encounter any part-timers there in October.

“It’s because of the rising number of job cuts for temp workers,” said Yukio Shige, a former police officer who heads the NPO. “Most live alone with no one else to depend on.”

Even if they have family, they have either drifted away from them or their kin are too involved in their own financial difficulties to help, Shige said.

When companies suffer, one of their first cost-cutting steps is to slash the temporary ranks.

Most of the potential suicides are not Fukui natives, Shige said. Typically, they’re people from rural areas of the country who went to big cities looking for work and ended up getting laid off.

One was a 27-year-old man from Miyagi Prefecture who was fired last month by his construction company in Mie Prefecture.

“He drifted here and there on his bicycle and ended up in Tojinbo with only ¥50 left,” Shige said.

After Shige listened to the man’s problems, he seemed to feel better. Shige introduced him to a support center in Saitama Prefecture.

Because of the rising number of suicide attempts at Tojinbo, Shige has asked the nearby city of Sakai and the local tourism office to help the NPO with its patrols.

“In the last decade, 257 people, or an average of 25.7 people annually, committed suicide at Tojinbo, which is more than the average of 20 people a year who jump off the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco,” Shige said. “We need to take comprehensive measures to stop this.”