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The Shinto religion and suicide in Japan 

The Shinto religion and suicide in Japan
Chapter:
The Shinto religion and suicide in Japan
Author(s):

Yoshihiro Kaneko

, Akiko Yamasaki

, and Kiminori Arai

DOI:
10.1093/med/9780198570059.003.0006
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date: 19 September 2019

The Shinto religion profoundly influences many Japanese. It is their emotional mainstay, although it has neither common commandments nor scriptures. Over time, the Shinto religion became involved in the state activities, which led to the development of shrines where the gods are worshipped.

Shinto coexists with Buddhism and a mixed practice of these two religions is common. According to Shinto, human beings are part of nature and can live only because nature is our parent. Mankind should live in the ‘way of the gods’. The worship of ancestors is an important value in Shinto.

The Shinto attitude towards suicide is somewhat ambivalent. Shinto believes that humans return to nature after death, suicide does not constitute an exception, and suicide as a sacrificial act is condoned. On the other hand, believing that life is given by nature and ancestors implies that suicide is wrong.

The increasing number of suicides during recent years, mainly for socio-economic reasons, has deeply affected Japanese society and also its attitudes towards suicide. This has resulted in many suicide-prevention activities in which religion can also play an important role.

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