In what was hailed as a landmark development, the Diet passed an amendment last week to the suicide prevention law for the first time since its enactment 10 years ago — this time requiring local-level authorities to take preventive action.

Experts say the overhaul symbolizes a turning point in Japan's years-long efforts to curb suicides, which is still a widespread problem in a nation that has spent decades in the economic doldrums. The revision is slated to take effect in April.

"I believe this is a landmark amendment and a huge step forward," said Yasuyuki Shimizu, who runs Lifelink, a Tokyo-based nonprofit organization aimed at preventing suicides.