When Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declared a state of emergency in Tokyo and six other localities on April 7, some argued it was too late. Countries that had gotten their COVID-19 infection numbers under control had done so by calling for urgent measures, including lockdowns, before those numbers started rising dramatically. Some media outlets were suggesting that Japan, like the United States and the United Kingdom, had waited too long, and would now have to face a potential medical disaster it was not prepared for.
The reason for the government's relative lax approach was a fear that the economy would be irreparably damaged if businesses were forced to suspend operations, but many claim that is the price you have to pay to save lives. Perhaps predictably, the financial press has expressed misgivings about strong measures to stem the tide of the epidemic and, in discussing the matter, hit on a subject that other media wouldn't touch: suicide.
The March 31 online edition of the business magazine Toyo Keizai reported on the increase in railway-related deaths since the advent of the coronavirus-related economic slowdown. Noting that the Nikkei stock average lost more than 7,000 points since January and job offers for some new graduates had been canceled, Toyo Keizai said the recent increase in deaths on railway lines in Japan was "conspicuous." Between March 16 and 22, more than 30 suicides were registered. On March 18, seven occurred in a single day and, on March 18 and 19, three people died on the JR Kobe Line alone. According to the transport ministry, there was an average of almost two railway-related deaths a day throughout Japan that were officially designated as suicides in 2018, so the March numbers were "unusually high," perhaps reflecting an increase in financial anxiety.