The Who2 Blog

The Japanese Way?

You might have thought that committing suicide in disgrace was just an old cliche about Japan, but the practice seems to be alive and well. So to speak.

Japanese Agriculture Minister Toshikatsu Matsuoka hanged himself on Sunday, a day before he was due to appear before a parliamentary committee to talk about allegations that he had accepted “improper political donations.” Those donations sound a lot like bribes: 13 million yen from contractors who were on the happy end of rigged construction bids.

According to Bloomberg News, the suicide was “the first by a Cabinet member since World War II.” Early reports had Matsuoka in critical condition, but he was confirmed dead after being taken to a hospital.

Ritual suicide is rare but not unheard of in Japan. One famous case was author Yukio Mishima, who in 1970 (according to our Who2 profile) “committed seppuku (ritual disembowelment), after which one of his compatriots chopped off his head.” Yikes.

We did a little looking into suicides of cabinet ministers in Japan after World War II, and came up mostly empty. One notable case was Korechika Anami, a former general who became War Minister in 1945. He signed the surrender agreement on 14 August 1945, then committed seppuku the next day.

Many more (including Hideki Tojo) did not commit suicide but were arrested, tried for war crimes, and either hanged or imprisoned for life.

And so much for this happy topic.

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