Nanae Munemasa, a 17-year-old girl from Japan, has struggled with bullying since elementary school. Munemasa describes her first experience of being bullied as a physical one, with her perpetrators slapping her in the girls’ bathroom. She goes on to describe how the boys in her class would beat her with brooms when they were supposed to be cleaning, as well as the inefficiency of the faculty and staff’s actions.
Like many girls, Munemasa confesses to contemplating taking her own life. She used to go back and forth with the thought, but concluded that committing suicide would only put more pressure on her parents and brother. Unfortunately, Munemasa’s story is far too common, especially within Japan. Many assume that Japan’s rising suicide rates are due to Japanese culture — rooted within it is the idea that one must be perfect, that everyone must fall in line.
When focusing on high school students who struggle with major depressive disorders and suicide, grades, family honor, parental expectations and societal norms are all causes of climbing death rates. More Japanese students commit suicide on Sept. 1 each year than on any other date. This statistic is related to the general start date of the first term of school after summer break ends. It is clear that suicide is one of Japan’s biggest social issues, and for a country with too much pride, this unwanted press is repulsing.
Aokigahara, otherwise known as “Suicide Forest” or “Sea of Trees,” is a notorious suicide site and facilitates the perfect environment for those with depression to end their lives. For this reason alone, a sign at the entrance of the park urges visitors to think of their families and contact a suicide prevention association. The forest is a theme park for death, which perfectly illustrates the negativity of Japanese culture and the epidemic that is slowly combing over the nation under the blood red sun.
There is a silver lining to this story — one that will hopefully reduce the number of suicide deaths throughout Japan and even the world. Foster the People, a Los Angeles-based band, has started an anti-bullying campaign to make a difference in the quality of life of Japanese teens. Lead singer Mark Foster explains that Munemasa’s story hit home for him, as he too struggled with bullying in high school. The band launched an Idiegogo campaign to combat bullying and raise funds for Munemasa to go to Los Angeles. The money raised will go toward Munemasa’s travel expenses and the production cost of Munemasa’s upcoming single, which will be produced by Mark Foster himself. The band promises to donate the rest of the funds to the Kind Campaign’s attempts to open up shop in Japan. Foster hopes the Kind Campaign will help end the bullying in schools across the country.
Munemasa’s story is far too common in Japan as well as countries around the world. Foster the People is making a real difference in Munemasa’s life and for those who have heard of her story. Music, kindness and celebration sometimes are all that is needed to save a life.