Kaytay's First Experience with Suicide in Japan, or
Inappropriate Smiles

There’s nothing like sharing a nearly empty train car with half a dozen drunken senior citizens who are so busy bowing to their friends who remain on the platform that they don’t notice the gaijin sharing their space. I’m not sure if it was their cheerful wizened faces, or the fact that for once I was being ignored despite my gigantic presence looming against the open door jamb that made me grin like I understood more than half of the elaborate leave-taking ritual which was unfolding before my eyes.

The train was at a dead standstill for fifteen minutes even before the posse of drunkards boarded, which is terribly unusual for Japan. The train lines here are like clockwork for the most part, never more than a minute late, and usually not even that. Something was definitely wrong.

The conductor made an elaborate announcement every few minutes, but unfortunately all I understood through the mumbles and intricate forms of keigo was something along the lines of "Honored customers, we’re very sorry, but there is an unresolved issue at Komaba Todaimae. Please wait, we will be moving again shortly. Thank you very much." Of course it took the man at least a minute to say this, so I assume there was more to it. It wasn’t until today that I learned there had been a suicide at Komaba Todaimae – someone, possibily a rejected University of Tokyo applicant, had thrown him or herself in front of the Inokashira Express train. It’s not a very common occurrence on the Inokashira Line, but when it does happen, it’s always at Komaba Todaimae Eki. I can only be thankful that I had switched from the express to the local train and was blissfully ignorant that there was an issue until getting stalled in Fujimigaoka, which is about twenty minutes farther down the line from Komaba. if I had been just a few minutes later getting to the station in Shibuya, I would have been on the express train that that poor person jumped in front of.

I heard that the Chuo Sen is most popular for these types of suicides. I’ve ridden on it before and was amazed at the breakneck speed of the Rapid Express train that comes through every eight or ten minutes. It’s Tokyo’s straightest line, and therefore the speed makes sense. I found this bit of information:

The Chuo Sen is one of Tokyo's most popular train lines, and not just with commuters. It's the city's premier suicide spot. Dozens of people throw themselves in front of its trains each year. The problem isn't confined to this train line. Last year across the nation more than 30,000 people killed themselves. That's three times more than die in car accidents in Japan and 12 times the number of suicides in Australia. *
And to think, I had been smiling like an idiot when this particular suicide took place, oblivious to the tragedy behind me.

* : source at http://www.abc.net.au/am/s429302.htm

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