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Professor Suggests Suicide for Japan’s Elderly

His pronouncements could hardly sound more drastic. In interviews and public appearances, Yusuke Narita, an assistant professor of economics at Yale, has taken on the question of how to deal with the burdens of Japan’s rapidly aging society.

During an interview in late 2012 he said, “I feel like the only solution is pretty clear. In the end, isn’t it mass suicide and mass ‘seppuku’ of the elderly?” Seppuku is an act of ritual disembowelment that was a code among dishonored samurai in the 19th century.

When asked by a school-age boy to elaborate on his mass seppuku theories, Dr. Narita graphically described to a group of assembled students a scene from “Midsommar.” This is a 2019 horror film in which a Swedish cult sends one of its oldest members to commit suicide by jumping off a cliff. Dr. Narita said, “Whether that’s a good thing or not, that’s a more difficult question to answer. So, if you think that’s good, then maybe you can work hard toward creating a society like that.”

At other times, he has broached the topic of euthanasia. He said in one interview, “The possibility of making it mandatory in the future … will come up in discussion.” Dr. Narita, 37, said that 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. Nevertheless, with his comments on euthanasia and social security, which appear clear enough, he has pushed the hottest button in Japan.

Possible Preaching Angle:

This is not a pleasant or positive illustration, but it does highlight the dangers of losing the biblical doctrine of the Imago Dei and the sanctity of every human life.


Motoko Rich and Hikari Hida, “A Yale Professor Suggested Mass Suicide for Old People in Japan. What Did He Mean?” The New York Times (2-12-23)

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