Suicide in Twentieth-Century Japan: 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Suicide in Twentieth-Century Japan

1st Edition

By Francesca Di Marco


198 pages

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Japan’s suicide phenomenon has fascinated both the media and academics, although many questions and paradoxes embedded in the debate on suicide have remained unaddressed in the existing literature, including the assumption that Japan is a "Suicide Nation". This tendency causes common misconceptions about the suicide phenomenon and its features.

Aiming to redress the situation, this book explores how the idea of suicide in Japan was shaped, reinterpreted and reinvented from the 1900s to the 1980s. Providing a timely contribution to the underexplored history of suicide, it also adds to the current heated debates on the contemporary way we organize our thoughts on life and death, health and wealth, on the value of the individual, and on gender. The book explores the genealogy and development of modern suicide in Japan by examining the ways in which beliefs about the nation’s character, historical views of suicide, and the cultural legitimation of voluntary death acted to influence even the scientific conceptualization of suicide in Japan. It thus unveils the way in which the language on suicide was transformed throughout the century according to the fluctuating relationship between suicide and the discourse on national identity, and pathological and cultural narratives. In doing so, it proposes a new path to understanding the norms and mechanisms of the process of the conceptualization of suicide itself.

Filling in a critical gap in three particular fields of historical study: the history of suicide, the history of death, and the cultural history of twentieth century Japan, it will be of great interest to students and scholars of Japanese Studies and Japanese History.


'Francesca Di Marco’s study is thus timely and offers a much-needed contribution to an emerging English-language literature on mental health and illness in modern Japan…Di Marco also offers the important observation—which appears to hold cross all four phases of her chronology—that between cultural narratives and the universalizing biological one, the individual meaning of each suicide appears often to have been lost.'

Christopher Harding, University of Endinburgh

The Journal of Japanese Studies Vol. 44

Table of Contents

IntroductionPart I 1. Biologizing the Meaning of Suicide (1880s-1930s)2. Culturalizing the Meaning of Suicide (1930s-1945)Part II3. Humanizing the Meaning of Suicide (1945-1960)4. The Triumph of the ‘Suicide Nation’ (1960-1985)Conclusion

About the Author

Francesca Di Marco is an independent researcher and cultural historian, specialising in the history of modern Japan.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Ethnic Studies / General
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Death & Dying