Some people’s lives are like horror movies. It’s strange that, in an age that can create virtual reality, self-driving cars and intelligent machines, the world’s third-largest economy can’t solve the problem of human misery. Maybe it’s insoluble.

More and more Japanese women seem to feel it is. Female suicide is sharply rising. July was a watershed. National Police Agency statistics tell the tale, as far as numbers can tell it — 651 women are known to have taken their own lives that month, up from 400-500 a month typically. The increase continued into August and September. Male suicide figures are higher but not rising. What is evoking this new despair in women?

COVID-19, one immediately thinks, and undeniably the economic brunt of the pandemic falls more heavily on women. Their jobs, often part time and ill-paid, are most vulnerable when the economy flounders. Single motherhood is hard at the best of times. These are not the best of times.