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Nov. 26, 2009, Sakai City: This is 65 year old Yukio Shige (pronounced shee-gay), a retired policeman from Fukui Prefecture who founded the NPO suicide prevention group Kokoro ni Hibiku Bunshu Henshukyoku, in order to prevent suicides along the rocky cliffs at Tojinbo. This scenic tourist spot located on the Japan Sea coast in Sakai City, Fukui Prefecture has become a popular suicide spot, with twenty suicides occurring here in 2008 according to city officials. Shige took up his cause in 2004, just before retirement as a police deputy at a nearby police station where he was posted. When he discovered how many suicides were occurring here, he began patrolling the cliffs of Tojinbo in order to spot those contemplating suicide. Shige soon began easily spotting distressed individuals and would talk to them out of their attempts to end their lives. Upon retirement he opened a small cafe at Tojinbo where he also set up his NPO. Since then other volunteers have joined his cause and as of November 2009, Shige explains that he and his group have talked 222 out of committing suicide. They do this by patrolling the cliffs daily with binoculars in hand, and when they spot someone they kindly approach them and coax them away to Shige’s cafe where they offer them tea and rice cakes. He also sees them safely home, and in cases where an individual is homeless, he finds them accommodations. However there are still some that slip past his watchful eyes as so far in 2009 thirteen people have jumped to their deaths here. Japan has one of the highest suicide rates in the world and 2009 may surpass the record 34,427 deaths that occurred here in 2003. This increase is thought to be a result of the Japanese recession which has been worsened by the global economic downturn. Depression is the number one cause for suicide in Japan, followed by illness and debt. Photo by Torin Boyd.
- Torin Boyd 2009 - All Rights Reserved
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