Families fined for suicides in Japan


Losing a family member to suicide is traumatic enough, but in Japan, families of train suicide victims face extra trauma in the form of a hefty bill from the train company involved. There are 13 train companies in the Tokyo region and the majority have a policy of charging the victim's family for the cost of the rail stoppage.

Fining families for such disruption is not unique to Japanese train companies. In May, a 17-year-old hijacked a bus and killed some of the passengers. His parents were recently fined the equivalent of £70,000 by the bus company involved.

There were 33,048 suicides in Japan last year; about five per cent of them were on train tracks. While they would not discuss their suicide policy, it is understood that Seibu Railways - one of the biggest rail companies - assesses costs on a case-by-case basis. It is understood that the greater the level of disruption caused, the bigger the bill.

Neither Seibu nor East Japan Railway - the biggest Tokyo train company - offers any counselling to train drivers in these situations.

There were 212 suicides at East Japan stations or lines in the Tokyo catchment area last year. It's understood that house prices along one of the busiest lines (the chuo line) are dipping more than in other areas because the line is the most popular for train suicides. Some companies are trying to reduce suicides by providing lighting in places which are popular for suicide attempts. They also feel that painting level-crossings with bright colours may subconsciously encourage people to change their minds.