Yale scholar suggests mass suicide for Japan’s elderly. Did he mean it? | World News - Hindustan Times
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Yale scholar suggests mass suicide for Japan’s elderly. Did he mean it?

Feb 14, 2023 03:22 AM IST

In an interview with The New York Times, he said his statements had been “taken out of context”, and that he was mainly addressing a growing effort to push the most senior people out of leadership positions in business and politics - to make room for younger generations.

Old people in Japan should “kill themselves” to ease the state from burdening itself, said a Yale University professor.

An elderly couple in Tokyo, Japan. (Getty Images)
An elderly couple in Tokyo, Japan. (Getty Images)

Yusuke Narita, an assistant professor of economics at Yale, was referring to the growing population of the elderly in the country. He also said that euthanasia must be made compulsory in Japan. “I feel like the only solution is pretty clear,” he said, during an online news programme in late 2021. “In the end, isn’t it mass suicide and mass ‘seppuku’ of the elderly?”

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Seppuku is an act of ritual disembowelment that was a code among dishonoured samurai in the 19th century.

In an interview with The New York Times, he said his statements had been “taken out of context”, and that he was mainly addressing a growing effort to push the most senior people out of leadership positions in business and politics - to make room for younger generations.

While he is virtually unknown even in academic circles in the US, his extreme positions have helped him gain hundreds of thousands of followers on social media in Japan among frustrated youths who believe their economic progress has been held back by a gerontocratic society.

Dr Narita said he was “primarily concerned with the phenomenon in Japan, where the same tycoons continue to dominate the worlds of politics, traditional industries, and media/entertainment/journalism for many years”.

The phrases “mass suicide” and “mass seppuku”, he wrote, were “an abstract metaphor”.

“I should have been more careful about their potential negative connotations,” he added. “After some self-reflection, I stopped using the words last year.”

Last year, when asked by a school-age boy to elaborate on his seppuku theories, Dr Narita graphically described to a group of students a scene from Midsommar, a 2019 horror film in which a Swedish cult sends one of its oldest members to commit suicide by jumping off a cliff.

“Whether that’s a good thing or not, that’s a more difficult question to answer,” Dr Narita told the questioner as he assiduously scribbled notes. “So if you think that’s good, then maybe you can work hard towards creating a society like that.”

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