In the year 2015, almost 70 people committed suicide every day in Japan. That amounts to a total of 24,025 documented cases. One of the most popular spots for suicide is Tojinbo Cliffs, a national park, which is located in Fukui Prefecture. One of the highest points is 23 meters high and the water is about 20 meters deep. Jumping off this cliff ensures a quick death.
In 2004, a retired police detective, Yukio Shige, took it upon himself to honor the dying requests of those who had taken their own lives. Their last wish was for somebody to save others from making that same mistake of wanting to end it all.
When he started trying to talk people out of killing themselves, everybody told him that he was crazy. They believed that those who opted for suicide were already doomed and there was nothing that could be done to help them.
A year before making the commitment to save as many as possible, Shige was walking along the trails after work when he saw an elderly couple resting in a gazebo nearby. Since it was quite dark and there was no one else around, he knew that they were contemplating suicide. He called out to them and convinced them that there were people who would help them to find solutions to their problems. A short time later he received a letter from that couple. They told him that he had been very kind to them and that they had gone to the authorities for help, as he had suggested, but the authorities did nothing to help them. It was a suicide note.
It was then that Shige decided that after his retirement, he wanted to start an organization to prevent suicide.
About 20 to 30 people were committing suicide in Tojinbo every day and the community was capitalizing on the tragedy. The cliffs are a huge tourist magnet; they attract visitors from all parts of the country. The suicides were being used as advertisement for the place and one could buy t-shirts and souvenirs with sayings such as ‘I’m hanging off a cliff’.
At Tojinbo, there are no barriers to protect tourists walking along the cliffs, so slipping and falling are a real possibility. The visitors are warned to explore at their own risk.
Near one of the cliffs there are some rustic benches where those planning to jump take a few minutes to think. Some of them write down their goodbyes, some leave their shoes behind. More than once parents and children have been seen jumping together from that spot. Once a woman jumped with a baby on her back and another one in her arms.
Of course murderers also use the place to dump the bodies of their victims into the sea.
Shige and his team of volunteers patrol the cliffs as much as they can. So far, they have been able to save 550 people in 12 years.