Hi-Tech Solution for Japan’s Suicide Problem


Pressure, pushing down on me. Pressing down on you. Under Pressure.

Remember those lines sung by David Bowie and Freddie Mercury? The song Under Pressure warned of the stressful toll that modern life takes on us all.

Commuters pack into train

Commuters pack into a train in Shinjuku Station in Tokyo, Japan (Photo credit: R. Dano)

If you watch the first part of the music video, you’ll see thousands of people being herded into packed commuter trains. It’s Tokyo, on a rail line most noted for suicides. Packed trains and stress are a way of life – and death – in Japan. And jumping in front of one is an all too common way to commit suicide and relieve that terrible pressure.



Japan Railways has implemented a unique method to thwart these suicide attempts: Blue LED lights. Standing below them, you feel as if beams of comforting blue light were showering down upon you. Mounted high up, they are located at the ‘oncoming end’ of the platforms, where most jumpers leap to their deaths – and where the trains come in at their fastest.

Blue LED light panel Yamanote Line Tokyo.

Blue LED light panel Ebisu Station Tokyo, Japan. (Photo credit: R. Dano)

The basic idea is that blue light is soothing and creates a calming effect, like a friend’s hand on one’s shoulder. A spokesman for the railway said:

“Blue is said to make people’s minds more serene. The blue lighting is in part an effort to prevent suicides, while it is also aimed at reducing misdemeanors such as graffiti and littering.Japan Railways has implemented a unique method to thwart these suicide attempts: Blue LED lights.”

Not long ago, JR experimented with installing large mirrors near the ends of the platforms. The idea behind the mirrors is that a person intending to jump, upon seeing themselves in the reflection opposite, may lose their resolve. That’s self-reflection, in-action!

From samurai to kamikaze, suicide in Japan has been regarded as an honorable way out. But Japan Rail has taken on that view, as well. They have resorted to charging the victim’s family for the cost of repair to the train, the delays and inconvenience incurred. This can amount to millions of yen (tens of thousands of dollars).

Playing on the Japanese notion of never being a burden to others, a salaryman who is in dire straits may think twice about committing suicide if the rail company is going to send his loved ones a bill. The accompanying shame to his family might be just enough incentive to make him think twice. To not fear the terror of knowing what this world is about, as David and Freddie sang. And to give love, and himself, one more chance. Let’s hope so.

Rob Reilly in Tokyo

For Dark Matter News

Rob Reilly

Rob Reilly

Star of Stage, Screen and Radioactivity! Rob Reilly (aka Rye Dano) works as an actor, writer, director, student, teacher, anthropologist and Gentleman-Scoundrel based in Tokyo, Japan - All of which he loves doing with as little effort as possible. Movie host at The Cinemated Man (cinematedman.com) and currently a contributor for Dark Matter News on the one and only Art Bell's Midnight in the Desert.

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