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Kenji Chiga

For BredaPhoto, Kenji Chiga visited well known suicide spots in Japan, like Aokigahara-forest and Mount Mihara. The starting point was the suicide of a friend that was very reminiscent of other suicides. ‘People get ideas on the internet. Then it’s like a virus gets stuck in their head that doesn’t want to leave.’

The Suicide Boom

No affluent country has as many suicides as Japan. Documentary photographer Kenji Chiga (Japan, 1982) made this series for BredaPhoto following the suicide of a good friend. His death was very reminiscent of earlier, well-known suicides.

Chiga immersed himself in the story of his friend and visited famous suicide spots in Japan. Including Mount Mihara, where in 1933 a 21-year-old girl jumped into the crater of a volcano. It led to a deluge of sensational media publications and hundreds of people who committed similar suicides. In Aokigahara forest signs have been put up to urge visitors to seek help. He also visited the Tojinbo cliff and the Shin-Koiwa station in Tokyo.

Chiga points to the great influence of (social) media. ‘People get the idea on the internet and then it’s as if there’s a virus in their heads that doesn’t want to leave.’

On the internet an idealised image of suicide is circulating, as a painless solution to all our problems. ‘We are now also talking about euthanasia and the right to die. That is very important to some people. But I am afraid that we will soon be helping people to die, instead of looking at what we can do for them to alleviate their suffering.’