Here There Be Monsters

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In the dense metropolis of Tokyo, hundreds of Japanese commit suicide along railway lines each year. Japanese use the term jinshin jiko, or “human accident,” to describe these suicides – this term is frequently displayed on status monitors, which are seen by millions of commuters as they navigate the delays and challenges of the Tokyo. Based on interviews with young Japanese students, this study seeks to understand how everyday Japanese commuters imbue the ambiguous act of train suicide with meaning. I argue that the everyday reproduction of jinshin jiko “shrouds” the embodied, individual act of suicide within the cultural space of the commute. Here, shrouding refers to the social re-production of train suicide as an everyday commuter event. Commuters utilize cultural scripts of dying to read the shrouded event of jinshin jiko through discourses of social obligation, depression, and the role of the commuting worker. This thesis contributes ethnographic case studies of mortality confrontation amid the rapidly changing perception and discourse of suicide in Japanese society.

-“Tokyo’s “Human Accidents”: Jinshin Jiko and the Social Meaning of Train Suicide