Chapter 2 – Itou Daisuke [25 years old]
Dear Mother and Father:
Please forgive me for what I am about to do.
I don’t have the strength left to live any longer.
How absurd is this world. Out there in this world, there are those who wish for death as I do, as well as those who wish for life despite experiencing a scarcity of food or being crippled with disease. After my death with regards to my savings, would it be possible for you to donate it to a universal organization such as UNICEF for use for those who wish for “life”? If you can do this, I am forever grateful.
In addition, I have no lingering attachment to this world, so I won’t make an appearance as a ghost. (In your view, would you want me to appear again, even as a ghost?) For that reason, there is no need to purify the dorm room. And please make the funeral the cheapest one possible. There is no reason for you to waste money on something trifle like that, so in return, please give some of the money to Mr. ____ who lives next door who will experience something unpleasant (due to my death). In addition, please donate a portion of my savings to the ____ locomotive yard that I am deeply indebted to. You might have to deal with relatives and people living in the neighbourhood telling you this and that due to my committing suicide, but there is no need for you to turn an ear to what they say. In the closing days of the Tokugawa regime, there were inspiring youths who earned their place in history such as Kusaka Genzui and Takechi Zuizan, as well as Mishima Yukio in recent history who committed suicide. Please think of me as someone among them.
I know this may come as strange coming from someone who has died, but lately, I feel that the way you have been treating my younger sister is a bit on the strict side. Even after I had gained full time employment, I still received money needed to visit home on occasion, and you sent me various daily necessities from home. In comparison, she’s still a student, and she can’t get her radio-cassette player fixed, nor have her club fees paid; I feel sorry for her. It’s not unreasonable for parents to take care of a child with respect to things other than the phone bill and tuition, don‘t you agree? She’s still a student, after all.
I truly thank you for the bottom of my heart for raising me up until this point. I apologize that I cannot repay your kindness. You might think me a coward for dying before you, but there was no other way. Please give my regards to my grandfather and grandmother ____ and ____.
P.S. Please make sure to give my letters to Mr. ___ and Mr. _____ either directly or by registered mail. In conclusion, if I were to say what I was most satisfied with in my life, well let’s see, I would have to say it would be having been able to spend the three years of my youth at _____ High, and being able to grip the master controller of the locomotive as a locomotive engineer. These two things were quite possibly the things I was most satisfied with.
Heisei 9 (1997), July 26th.
Note: This was written before his first suicide attempt. On his second and final attempt, no letter was left behind.
[ The Day of the Suicide ]
=I’m not capable of leaping to my death=
“What do you say we have grilled meat for dinner?”
His mother asked in a cheerful voice.
“Dai-chan, what would you like to eat? What would you like?”
“….I want happiness.”
“ ‘Happiness’? …You and Chiharu were born into my life. That’s happiness enough for me. I think that’s what happiness is about. It doesn’t have to be something big like a dream—it’s something that can be easily be found somewhere rolling about, don’t you think?”
May 18th, 1999. This was the conversation exchanged between Daisuke-kun and his mother two days before his death.
After this exchange, Daisuke-kun ate two slices of apple and went to bed. He hadn’t eaten much for several days. His mother had been worried about him.
True to her fears, Daisuke-kun’s heart was filled with agony.
“…my body feels so tired. I want to die. It’s so exhausting living out in society. I don’t know how I can go on living my life. Up until now, I’ve worked so so hard and given it my all. Even after listening to the commonplace advice and warnings that everyone around me has given me, nothing has changed. The doctors and books are useless. For a long, long time, I’ve done everything that is in my power to try to change this.
A sudden sense of solitude. My pulse quickens, and I feel a pain as if my chest is being constricted. I wonder if I will ever be able to go back to work?
Does Aki (NOTE: not her real name) really love me? Will she choose to come back to me? Will she walk down the path of life with me?
I have no confidence in myself. Not a single bit. …I want to free myself of this pain, because life is seeped in suffering.”
And then, on May 20th, 1999, Daisuke-kun put an end to his life.
The life that he got through with his utmost power was twenty-five years. The reasons behind his decision to choose the path of suicide were numerous– the depression he was suffering, the second thoughts his girlfriend was having about marriage because she wished to enter graduate school and did not wish to immediately start a family, in addition to having no choice but to take up a job he did not want to do because he was unable to gain permission to once again take up his position as a Japanese Railway locomotive engineer as a result of him having been diagnosed with depression.
Since a few days prior to the suicide, his mother was worried that Daisuke-kun, who had been in a depressive state, might try to commit suicide. In the past, Daisuke-kun had told the physician appointed to him at the medical department of the Tokyo Jikei University-Affiliated Hospital:
“I’m not capable of leaping to my death,” so she came to the conclusion that if he were to commit suicide, he would try to do so by poisoning or hanging himself, and watched out for any behaviour hinting at such.
Two o’clock in the afternoon on the day of his suicide, his mother had peered into Daisuke-kun’s room only to find him sleeping.
“Oh, well if he’s sleeping, then it should be okay.”
His mother decided to go and buy cake, which was a favourite of his, for him.
“He doesn’t seem to have much of an appetite, but I’m sure since he loves cake, he’ll have some.”
She went and purchased the cake, and in good spirits, headed for home.
When she drew near the apartment complex, she heard a commotion in the parking lot. It was clear that something was amiss.
“I wonder what happened?”
She had a terrible feeling about this.
“It can’t be… No, it can’t be, right? It couldn’t be Dai-chan.”
The young wife who lived next door to her came rushing over as soon as she spotted her.
“There’s someone collapsed in the parking lot.”
His mother shut her eyes.
“I think that’s your son.”
She didn’t know what to do with the surge of emotion that overcame her.
“No…it can’t be…it can’t be…”
She was in disbelief. She didn’t want to accept the fact that Daisuke-kun really had died. She loved him so, so much….and yet, why?
…This was something that happened the night before.
“You don’t have to worry about me anymore.”
He sighed as he said this. He had a pained expression on his face.
“What are you talking about?”
“Hey, mom, if I die, you’ll feel really sad, right?”
“Of course I would. Do you even need to ask?”
Even at the age of twenty five years old, Daisuke-kun was someone who still shared a very close relationship with his mother, and he was often reliant on his mother. To her, he really was the apple of her eye.
“Everyone would feel sad, right?”
“Of course they would. There’s no way that they wouldn’t.”
She remembered back to that conversation she had with Daisuke-kun.
I told you that everyone would feel sad, and that you can’t die, didn’t I? So why….why?
“What….my brother? ….No way…”
When Daisuke-kun’s younger sister, Chiharu-san heard of her brother’s death, she was stunned. They were close siblings. Daisuke-kun never felt jealous of his younger sister, who was sharp and talented, and the complete opposite of him. On the contrary, he was proud of her, and doted on her a great deal. He was a kind older brother who was always worrying about how his younger sister’s college life was doing.
“My brother…no, it can’t be! It can’t….this is so unfair…”
She didn’t know exactly what was so unfair—whether it was the fact that Daisuke-kun had committed suicide, or the fact that they couldn’t do anything to stop him, or the condition called “depression” that was the cause of such an action, or the fiancee who distressed her brother….it may even have been referring to Daisuke-kun, who brought down the family with the shock of his sudden death. Or perhaps, it was all of the above.
Upon hearing the tragic news, his fiancee Aki-san was at a momentary loss of words, before saying in a hoarse voice:
“It’s my fault. It’s all my fault. I loved Daisuke-an, from the bottom of my heart. I loved him so much, and yet…”
She broke down in tears, and she was in such a state of shock that she couldn’t say anything more. The feelings of regret and loss that came with thinking that she had driven the one she loved to the path of death. She was feeling an incomprehensible pain. His girlfriend, who had been living in Tokyo at that time, immediately got on a plane and flew to be by Daisuke-kun’s side— to the Daisuke-kun whose body had long gone cold.
The wake, and the accompanying funeral service. A total of four hundred mourners attended the funeral. There were many who cared about Daisuke-kun, from his superiors to co-workers to classmates. However, those feelings could no longer reach Daisuke-kun. His friend K-kun, who shared his passion for railroads attended both the wake and funeral service, and he visited Daisuke-kun’s household from time to time until the full forty nine days of mourning had passed.
The figure Daisuke-kun looked up to above all was Sakamoto Ryoma. The bold and big-hearted personality, the overwhelming sense of justice and the passion for ideals, and the charisma that drew many in. He wanted to become someone like Ryoma.
[ A Life Cut Short ]
=A Dream, a Lover, and a Breakdown=
Daisuke-kun was born in March of 1974. The household run by a father who worked at the base station of a telephone company was an ordinary, but happy one. Three years after Daisuke-kun was born, his younger sister Chiharu-san was born.
Daisuke-kun was a kind-hearted child. He was very earnest and clumsy, and he thought of his character, which was honest and one who wasn’t capable of lying, as “blundering and slow-witted.” However, although he didn’t realize it, he had many strong points as well. For example, he was someone who was indispensable to the harmony of a group—a figure who, while assisting the leader, would look out for those around him. He wasn’t someone who was disliked by others. However, Daisuke-kun only ever saw his faults. He hated himself, even though there was never a need to.
He held an inferiority complex towards his awkward self. Back in elementary school, he had a painful memory of not being able to play the recorder well no matter how much he tried. He wasn’t good at sports either. It may be that from the exasperation he felt during those times were what led his almost obsessive endeavour in order to become his “ideal self.”
Up until the fifth grade, he remained his “slow-witted” self, but once he entered junior high, he began to study earnestly, and he was able to attain grades such that he was the thirtieth highest scorer from a total of four hundred students. He was even assigned the post of the class representative. Despite such achievements however, he still wasn’t the type to display strong leadership skills.
Due to his high grades, he was able to enter a well-known local university-bound high school. Even there, he wasn’t the type to draw attention, and he remained a quiet young boy—the kind who couldn’t say no if someone asked something of him.
“Let’s go to the convenience store.”
Because of his honest demeanour, it would show on his face whenever he was faced with something that he didn’t like. However, he had a personality that didn’t allow him to say “no.” You could say he was someone who had an average number of friends–not too many, and not too few. If it had to be one or the other, he was someone who belonged to the quiet group of the class. He wasn’t someone who was particularly popular with the girls either.
On the other hand, in the eyes of his mother, he was a popular, attentive boy who was always surrounded by friends and whom was popular amongst the girls. It may just be that in front of his mother, he put up a bold front. It’s normal for people to change the way they behaved depending on who they are with. People who behave the same regardless of who they are with—whether it be parents, friends or teachers, are few and far between; so it is not surprising to find that his attitude differed in front of his mother than when he was with friends.
In addition, it may be that his mother viewed her son with such love that she painted a picture of him that idealized him. It’s impossible to figure out the true state of things now. What we can say with certainty though is that he was an honest son who never went through a rebellious phase.
Daisuke-kun’s interests were in railways. He had been fascinated with them since he was back in elementary school, and he often went to see old railway lines and railway tracks that were soon about to be discontinued. He was especially interested in the railways that dated back a long ways. In addition to his interests in railways, he was also passionate about club activities. He joined the cheering squad, and he was assigned the role of bearing the flag as an sub-captain.
Often when one thinks of a cheer squad, we conjure up an image of boys who are tough, macho, and bossy, but at Daisuke-kun’s school, the team could not have been any more different. On the contrary, there were even students who referred to them as “a puny-looking cheer squad.” In addition, for generations, it was a tradition for the cheering squad leader to be the class president, so it was inevitable that Daisuke-kun, being the vice-president, would be part of such a squad. It may be that he became too focused on his cheering squad duties, but slowly, his grades began to slide.
Although Daisuke-kun was viewed by his class as a quiet person, on the flip side, he was also secretly viewed as a “passionate” person. For example, this kind of incident occurred: one day, the English teacher, who had gotten upset that hardly anyone had prepared for the class, attempted to leave the class and go back to the staff room.
“I think you’re wrong.”
Daisuke-kun stood up from the chair.
“You should continue with the class.”
“But no one has prepared for it. No one’s shown me that they’re eager to learn, and my eagerness to teach has gone away with it.”
“But as long as there is even one student who has prepared for class, you should continue with the class!”
Daisuke-kun asserted confidently with the loud voice he had trained through the daily cheering squad practice.
“Then let me ask you this: did you come prepared for this class?”
“No, I didn’t.”
The class broke out in uproarious laughter. The teacher smiled bitterly before starting the class. Despite being more of the quiet type most days, there were times when he would suddenly say something that no one else dared to say. However, because he was so unusually serious about it, there were some students who thought him strange.
Daisuke-kun’s sense of right and wrong originated from the object of his admiration: Sakamoto Ryoma. At every sports day that was held at his school, it was a custom for students to wear happi coats emblazoned with artwork and words that they were fond of. One year, Daisuke-kun slapped on a photocopy of a picture of Sakamoto Ryoma on the back of his happi coat.
After entering grade eleven, he became close with someone whom he could call a true friend: Y-san. Y-san was the first person with whom he shared the inner contents of his heart. Daisuke-kun had a sensitive and weak side to him. From time to time, he would fall into a deep depression, and he would become sick of living. Y-san was the only person whom he opened up to regarding those signs of depression. Looking back on it now, it was commented that there was no one else whom knew of Daisuke-kun’s depression. In addition, he was able to make friends with K-kun, who shared his love of railways. Although he had begun showing symptoms of depression, thanks to the friends that he made, his high school days were an enjoyable one.
K-kun shared with us a conversation he had with Daisuke-kun:
One day, K-kun told Daisuke-kun this:
“You’re always putting up a good front to others. You’re a hypocrite.”
“Huh, so I’m a hypocrite?”
Daisuke-kun who replied as such, seemed happy to hear that for some reason. Why was he happy to be told something like that? Perhaps he thought that there was someone who truly understood him. Or it could have just been him trying to cover up something unpleasant with a smile. There could be various reasons for his reaction, but Daisuke-kun had written the following down in his diary:
“I think I’m always worried about people’s opinions of me— how others view me, and what they think of me. If I had to give a reason for it, I think it’s because I have no confidence in myself.”
What was running through Daisuke-kun’s mind when K-kun called him a hypocrite?
Halfway through his grade eleven year, Daisuke-kun came across a recruitment ad in the newspaper that would change his fate. It was an advertisement posted by the Japanese Railways recruiting for the position of locomotive engineer. This was when Daisuke-kun cemented his decision to strive to become the locomotive engineer that he had dreamed of becoming as a child.
“I’m going to become a locomotive engineer.”
Those around him were taken aback. The school Daisuke-kun had been attending was a distinguished university-bound high school, so it was no surprise that everyone thought he would advance to university after high school. Everyone around him were resolutely opposed to him obtaining employment. At a parent-teacher consultation held between him, his teacher, and his parents, the teacher and parents insisted:
“For now, you should head to university. You’re still not yet a full grown adult. Your view of the future may end up changing.”
However, Daisuke-kun, who had already begun to head towards his dream, did not back down.
“I want to become a locomotive engineer.” Daisuke-kun, who had made this decision, decided to go directly to the branch office of JR Transportation. It was so he could ask the manager of the branch office how he could be hired as a locomotive engineer. Normally, locomotive engineers were hired from applicants who applied through such schools as industrial high schools, but Daisuke-kun’s school, which was a university-bound one, had no such system. He was able to obtain a special recommendation from the principal, and when he was in grade twelve, he was able to attain a tentative job offer at JR Transportation.
This was how he made his dream that he had as a child of becoming a “driver of a locomotive” a reality. Others who gained full time employment in the same grade were only four out of a total of four hundred and ninety five students, and even then, it was more than previous years. Daisuke-kun, who had turned his dream into reality, was someone who was supposed to have had a bright future ahead of him.
Daisuke-kun, who had by then joined JR Transportation, was told to first choose where he preferred to be assigned. After thinking about it, in the end, he decided to chose the locomotive yard that was nearest to his hometown of Shikoku– the Chugoku district. Despite this, it wasn’t a distance that allowed him to continue living at home, so it was decided that he would live in the dorm that the company prepared for him.
Upon entering the company, it wasn’t all fun and games. Among the new employees, Daisuke-kun was the only one who had attended a normal high school. There was a large gap between him and those who already had the fundamental basics after attending a technical or engineering high school, and there were many times he suffered because of this. In addition, he could not acquire the license needed to operate a railroad car until he was twenty years old. In other words, until that time came, his main duty would be to acquire knowledge regarding railroad cars and to go about inspecting them.
Daisuke-kun, who had chosen the path of employment rather than to advance onto university, and who had begun to take steps towards his dream, entered a correspondence college in the fall of his eighteenth birthday. It may perhaps be that he felt an inferiority complex about having chosen a path different from everyone else, and he had begun to have feelings of anxiety and uneasiness. And although he had the disadvantage of attending school while working, he managed to obtain his degree after four years.
January 17th, 1995. The Great Hanshin-Awaji earthquake hit. Daisuke-kun was the only one from his workplace who volunteered in the rescue effort. He displayed his natural strong sense of moral and compassion. Because of this frame of mind, the opinions of those around him of him began to rise.
However, serving as a railway operator was a night job. Amidst the irregular work schedule, one worked in rotating shifts in which one slept while the other operated the railroad car. This was especially hard on Daisuke-kun, who had suffered from insomnia from the very beginning. He began to complain about his inability to sleep, and he once again began showing symptoms of depression.
There were days when he couldn’t sleep despite having taken sleeping pills. Even then, it never crossed his mind to quit his job. This was a job for which he pushed past all those who opposed him to attain. Because of this, he couldn’t say that he wanted to quit.
“Maybe I should try becoming an operator for a local line?” If it were a local private railway company, he could have a job which wasn’t at night, but rather ran from morning to ten o’clock at night. Daisuke-kun had apparently been considering this option.
After entering a dorm and beginning to work, he began to feel distressed.
“It’s too lonely living in a dorm.”
Daisuke-kun’s dorm life was a lonely one. He hadn’t been able to make any friends his age, and he didn’t get along that well with his room mate. It was also apparently the case that he was having difficulties with his human relationships inside the company. And as if to divert his mind from such troubles, the number of times he sent letters and called his friend from high school, Y-san, steadily increased. After high school graduation, Y-san had been diagnosed with depression, and had begun attending the hospital regularly as an outpatient.
They shared a joint view of “the doubts of living.”
The frequent letters being received from Daisuke-kun. There were times when Y-san felt it was a hassle to write the reply he did from time to time. When he didn’t reply for some time, a letter came from Daisuke-kun that read “please send a reply.” As someone who suffered from the same pains, Y-san was someone who had a special place in Daisuke-kun’s life. At that time, Y-san was entering university.
Around this time, Daisuke-kun began seeing someone. She was a quiet high school student. He dated her up until around the beginning of 1998. Daisuke-kun’s preferences always leaned towards traditional, reserved females.
Shortly afterwards, Daisuke-kun cemented his decision to advance onto graduate school. Once again, those around him were against his decision. There were even those who saw his goal of attending graduate school as being because he held an inferiority complex when it came to his academic background. What he was aiming towards was Hosei University’s sociology department. It was no run-of-the-mill affair to have to work while studying for the entrance exams.
Daisuke-kun often returned home with study goods in hand. Right around this time, due to his father’s work and his younger sister’s entrance into university, the family purchased a condominium in a city in the Kansai district.
There were times his mother saw him looking unhappy about returning to his dorm. Looking back on it now, it may just be that his studying to prepare for the entrance examination wasn’t going as well as he had hoped.
This was something that happened on July 30th, 1997 when Daisuke-kun was twenty three years old. When his mother returned home, there was a message left on the answering machine.
“Daisuke-kun has collapsed, so please come here as soon as you can.”
His mother went to the acute care hospital, and she was informed of Daisuke-kun’s suicide attempt.
“Talk about pathetic, huh?”
“Why did you do something like this? Why?”
“I’m sorry, mom.”
Daisuke-kun had been receiving outpatient care from the department of psychosomatic medicine since a short time ago. After becoming worn out by life, he had tried to hang himself. Thankfully, a co-worker who had been living in the next room had discovered him right away.
This was when she spotted the suicide letter that Daisuke-kun had written. However, she wanted to refrain from questioning him too hard, so she returned the letter to Daisuke-kun. The most important thing is that he’s alive. What’s important is that fact alone. She feared that by pressing for answers from him would only cause him to feel as if he was being driven further into the ground.
Afterwards, his entrance exam for graduate school ended in failure, and his condition worsened. Because of this, he had to take a temporary leave from the company. He had even been planning on taking a trip in January of 1998 with his sister to Thailand as a change of scenery. However, his depression took a turn for the worst, and in March, he was admitted to the Machida Municipal Hospital in Tokyo. That time, he was able to be discharged from the hospital by May.
When June rolled around, this time, he went on a solitary trip to China. However, the vacation had no positive effect, and after returning to Japan, he was admitted to the Tokyo Jikei University-Affiliated Hospital in August. This was where he met Aki-san, who would later become his fiancee. She worked as a nurse there.
He received a method of treatment called the Morita treatment, but unable to endure the rigorous treatment, he ran away from the hospital. The hospital reached a verdict that said: “The Morita treatment is not a good fit for him, and we can no longer be responsible for him. Perhaps what he needs is counselling.” Daisuke-kun, who was an affable person, was a hit at the hospital, and when he was discharged at the end of September, many nurses and patients alike came to see him off. There were even some who were crying.
After a short while after returning home, he received a phone call from Aki-san. They had been on friendly terms while he was hospitalized, but because she had been off duty on the day that he had been discharged from the hospital, they had been unable to exchange words of goodbye before he left. Aki-san had looked up his phone number from the patient’s chart and had called him. Daisuke-kun fell head over heels in love with Aki-san, who had been kind to him and had given him words of comfort. This may also have been around the time that he became weaker psychologically.
They quickly became very close, and they nurtured their love through monthly visits back and from between Tokyo and Kansai, and by January of 1999, they had even begun to talk of getting married once Daisuke-kun was reinstated back to his former work position. Aki-san, who had come to visit him and his family in February, stayed with him at a nearby hotel. They were at the peak of their happiness. After exchanging formal greetings with both their parents, it reached a situation in which all that was left to do was hold the wedding ceremony.
“I’m glad to be alive. Because I’m alive, I was able to meet the woman that I want to spend the rest of my life with. I’m so glad to be alive.”
However, fate took a sudden downward turn. Aki-san began saying that she couldn’t take up homemaking right away because she wanted to attend graduate school.
“But what I want to realize is a normal family.”
They fought about this for many days.
Daisuke-kun was becoming mentally unstable, and when she didn’t answer her cell phone, there were times that he even went so far as to call the company whom Aki-san worked for.
“I can’t forget the look Aki-san had while I was hospitalized when she was earnestly listening to all that I had to say.”
For his mother, there was something that bothered her. Daisuke-kun had mentioned to her that whenever she came to his hometown or his workplace, he would always introduce her to his friends and co-workers, but she never did the same for him. Although he looked healthy on the outside, he was suffering from a type of psychological condition called depression. There was a constant threat of his condition worsening from the most trivial of matters.
An event that launched a further attack on his weakened state was waiting for him. A verdict was reached by the company that due to his depression, they would put on hold his return back to work as a locomotive engineer for two years. It was said it would only be until his depression stabilized, but this verdict was much too harsh for Daisuke-kun, who was already in a weakened state.
May arrived, and he was beginning to show exhaustion, so his mother made Daisuke-kun take some time off from work. This was four days before his death.
On the second day of his paid leave, Daisuke-kun attempted to go to Tokyo via the bullet train to go see his girlfriend, but she turned him down saying she had a night shift that day. Aki-san had planned to have a final discussion with him several days later regarding whether she would go on to graduate school or whether they would marry or whether they would break up.
“I’m so tired… I don’t care about anything anymore. I’m going to quit my job.”
Daisuke-kun muttered this.
“Right now, I’m in a situation where I’ve been deserted on all sides. The gap between my ideal and reality is too much.”
And so, on May 25th, 1999, he put an end to his own life.
[ The Day of the Interview ]
=You’re finally free, Daisuke-kun=
The night before the interview, we set off for Tokyo on the night bus. We rode being swayed by the bus for just short of eight hours. By the time we reached the final stop at Osaka station, the sun had already started to rise, and the town had already begun to bustle with life. We got on a connecting train, and we headed for Itou-san’s house.
Once we arrived at the nearest station, we phoned Itou-san to let her know that we would be “coming by shortly.” That was when she told us she would come to pick us up.
Shortly afterwards, the car driven by Daisuke-kun’s mother came to a stop in front of us. We visited her at a time when it was nearing the end of 1999. Despite it being a busy time of the year, she agreed to give us an interview. It had been less than a year since Daisuke-kun had passed away. The emotional wounds were still fresh, and there was a possibility that she had yet to sort out her feelings. However, she responded enthusiastically to our request.
The first time we met her was a few months earlier. After deciding to work on this book, we were trying to search for surviving members of a deceased person’s family who would agree to be interviewed. One day, we had the opportunity to attend a self-help meeting called “Mendori Club.” Daisuke-kun’s mother had been attending that meeting. She wanted to open up to someone about the pain of losing her son. However, she was finding it hard to talk about her grief to friends who lived a life of peace. This was how she decided to attending the meeting in which others who were of the same circumstances gathered.
A self-help meeting does not have as its core any government or private sector involvement, but rather, it is a meeting that is formed so that the concerned party could support one another. The majority of these meetings were not open to the public. However, the representative of the meeting who had approved of our objective made a special exception to allow us to participate in a meeting.
At a meeting, each person in order would talk about their feelings regarding the child whom they had lost. There was only one rule, and that was one most not criticize or deny anything that another person has said. Even if a prejudiced view or an extreme comment was said, these were words that arose because of the deep pain that they were carrying. What is most important is to first get out all the pain which has no outlet that had been building up inside their hearts.
I, being the only outsider who had come to attend this meeting by himself, felt was if I was being crushed by the raw suffering displayed. However, at the same time, I felt a strong need to inform society of this pain. After the meeting had drawn to a close, when I explained to Daisuke-kun’s mother of my feelings, I was able to receive an response in which she agreed to be interviewed at a later date.
Daisuke-kun’s mother whom I reunited with at the station, seemed even more gaunt than I had seen her previously.
We arrived at her house within five minutes. The family was still living in the condominium from which Daisuke-kun leapt to his death. Every time they left the house, they would have to pass by the site in which he was found. The pain of something like that can only be understood by those who had experienced the same thing. It may have been that their wish to remain in the place where memories of him were made overrode such feelings.
In Itou Daisuke-kun’s case, the more we heard about his story, the more it made us realize just how complex the issue of suicide is. Daisuke-kun was able to achieve his dream of becoming a locomotive engineer that had been his dream since he was a child, and he was loved by his family. Not only that, but a marriage to the love of his life had been approaching.
Of course, it is undeniable that happiness is a subjective term. No matter how terrible of a life one may be leading, as long as the person living it feels happy, then he is happy. It could also go in the opposite direction. No matter how blessed of a life one may have, if the person living it is unhappy, then he is unhappy. However, in the second situation, it is difficult to see what strong motivation he had for choosing the path of death. In Daisuke-kun’s case, it was most likely the depression he was suffering from that caused a shadow to settle in his heart.
If their son had been suffering from a concrete threat such as bullying, the family may have been able to handle the situation in some way. However, it is not an easy task for a family to lend a hand of support against a psychological condition such as depression. His mother suffered from the overwhelming helplessness that assaulted her from seeing her son suffering in front of her very eyes.
The suicide letter Daisuke-kun left behind may cause a slight sense of discomfort to the readers. It is because the letter was such an unusually calm one. He showed concern regarding his younger sister, and care for his family. Not only that, he even specified how his savings should be used. His decision showed awareness of what would happen after his death. One could look at it as such. Despite that though, it does not justify such an action.
Just as had been written in his suicide letter though, his mother donated his savings to UNICEF.
“I want to do something. Nothing might come out of me doing something. My feelings may not reach Daisuke; even then, I want to do something.”
She wasn’t able to do anything for her son who had been suffering. These feelings of regret spurred his mother to take action.
After Daisuke-kun’s death, she explained to us that she went around and visited his co-workers as well as his acquaintances. This may have been an action that arose from wanting to understand her son’s mental agony through tracing the path that he had made. Either that, or she may have been wanting a clear-cut reason which allowed her to pinpoint what it was that troubled him so. Similar to a bullying-related suicide, her sorrow shifted to anger, and what was present was the pain of being unable to point that spearhead of anger to perpetrators or the school. Regret and a guilty conscience continued to gnaw away at the family.
Seeing his mother break down in tears numerous times throughout the interview, we couldn’t help but realize once again the extent of the complexity of depression. After interviewing his mother, Daisuke-kun’s friend, Y-san who met with us for an interview, spoke on behalf of those suffering from the condition about just how complex this of a problem this is.
“Daisuke-kun’s finally free.”
Y-san told us that was how he felt when he heard of what happened to Daisuke-kun. The comment may seem imprudent seeing as how it referred to a friend who had committed suicide, but there was a reason why he said this.
Y-san had been friends with Daisuke-kun since back in their high school days, and they shared a secret that they could not share with anyone else. They both had felt an impulsiveness towards death that was hard to hold back.
“Since back in high school, every time he felt down, Daisuke-kun was always saying he wanted to die. Although he put up a cheerful front to everyone else, he was suffering deep inside. Even after he had started working, every time he wasn’t feeling that well, he told me stuff like how he wanted to die, and how we should die together. Even before his first suicide attempt, he was telling me that he wanted to die.”
This was Daisuke-kun’s secret that no one except Y-san knew about. In the eyes of his family and classmates, he was always seen as a cheerful, fun being. It was the same for K-kun, a classmate of his from back in high school. Because they shared a common interest of “railways,” they often spent time together. After Daisuke-kun had received a tentative job offer from JR Transportation, the two of them even went on a journey to ride on different railways. Even after graduation, they had kept in touch, but he explained he hadn’t even known that Daisuke-kun had attempted to commit suicide.
“Once, there was a time when I asked Daisuke-kun while we were talking on the phone: ‘why do you sound so down?’ But I just figured he was probably just lonely from living in a dorm. During the time we hadn’t made contact with each other, I wasn’t able to do anything for him. I wish I could have been someone who he could have opened up to about his problems.”
K-kun explained his current frame of mind to us.
Daisuke-kun only opened up regarding his secret to Y-san, who was suffering from the same condition as him. Because he knew very well of the pain and suffering Daisuke-kun had been enduring, Y-san’s first words to us were as follows:
“It didn’t come as a shock to me. ‘….Finally, you’re free, Daisuke-kun.’ I feel bad for his family, but that’s what I truly felt. I wish though, that we could have we could have thought about it for a bit longer together. He was always someone who thought too much into things. He probably pushed himself too hard in his studies too.”
The words of Y-san, who spoke to us in an indifferent way as such, felt overwhelmingly heavy.
[ Thereafter ]
= I try to say as much as possible that I only have one child =
On a day four years after Daisuke-kun’s death, we once again went to see his mother. If we were to be honest, we felt a bit heavyhearted at the thought of going to see Daisuke-kun’s mother. This was because when we first went to interview her, it had been shortly after his death, so among those surviving members of a deceased person’s family, she seemed the most haggard of them all. Of course, this is not to say that none of the other surviving members had seemed gaunt and heavyhearted. However, in comparison to those members who talked to us after having had the opportunity to sort their feelings, Daisuke-kun’s mother had yet had the opportunity to do so.
Although it was for the purpose of gathering data materials, it was difficult for us to think about having to see her in such a state once again. However, contrary to our fears, Daisuke-kun’s mother, whom we had seen for the first time in a long while, seemed to have for the most part regained her health.
“I’ve been going to the pool practically everyday. I’ve been doing walking exercises in the water. My doctor recommended it to me saying it’s good treatment for my leg. Right now, my joy in life is being able to chat with my friends there.”
His mother said this as she smiled. Previously, when we came to interview her, we did not see her smile even once. The mother who had been in low spirits had once again begun to take part in society. What was led to this decision? We decided to ask her this.
“After Daisuke passed away, more than anything, I hated being at home by myself. I couldn’t stand the silence, because when it was quiet, I couldn’t help but think about him. That’s why I always had the TV turned on. That was the kind of condition I was in, but my friends were very caring of me. They wrote me letters of encouragement, and they worried about me. That’s how I came to think that it wouldn’t be right for me to continue to be moping about.”
The warm support of those around her gave her the strength to live facing forward. Nevertheless, it was not as if the deep emotional wounds had completely healed.
“Whenever I see someone around the same age as him, I can’t help but remember. That’s why I do my best to try to forget.”
There may be some who may feel uncomfortable hearing an expression such as “to forget.” If she forgot him, it would be cruel to Daisuke-kun. Either that, or there may be people who think that she shouldn’t try to turn her eyes away from the pain. However, it is the reality of the situation that it is no easy task to accept the fact that your son has committed suicide. Even if there are times that one’s feelings have settled down, there may be days when one can’t help but be haunted by the image of the deceased child. It can be sunny one day, only to be cloudy in another. It is an endless repetition of this.
If the days in which one feels depressed continues, it becomes a hindrance to living one’s daily life. This was how his mother came to choose the means of “forgetting” as a way to pick herself up again. If it meant that she is able to get back her daily life, is there anyone who has the right to criticize her?
In addition, whenever she talked to people who do not know of her son’s suicide, she explained to us that she tells them she has only one child. That one child refers to her daughter. If she is honest and says she has two children, then they would naturally ask her about Daisuke-kun. It is true that she could find a way to brush off their questions. However, she would not have been able to feel calm at heart.
During such trying times such as these, she explained to us that her daughter’s presence provides her great strength.
“It helps me very much that my daughter is there for me. Just the other day, she took me to Universal Studio Japan pushing me in a wheelchair.”
She added that her daughter takes her out to many places.
“Since she has come of age, I’ve been thinking lately how wonderful it would be if she married already.”
His mother who shared this with us had a happy smile once again.
“Due to Daisuke-kun passing away, many things changed. Before, I used to have a bright personality. And before the incident, I used to love the evening sky in Autumn. But now, every time I see the Autumn evening sky, I feel a sense of sorrow.”
The past that has been lost can no longer be recovered. It is probably the case that there will never come a day when she is completely healed of the pain of losing her beloved son. However, she has begun to slowly but surely step towards the future. Daisuke-kun’s mother, by doing so, has swallowed Daisuke-kun’s last words and turned them into a source of strength.
[ A Response to the Suicide Letter from the Family ]
To my dear Daisuke-kun:
It’s been almost eight months since you suddenly departed this world. Your solitary journey to heaven this time around must have been quite a comfortable one. Lately, I’ve been so lonely and so sad that everyday has been a struggle. I wish you had chosen to take me with you. Dai, you must have been so tired to the point of exhaustion, and yet I wasn’t able to fully comprehend your pain; I’m filled with regrets.
I’m so sorry. Your life lasted only twenty five years, but because you put such effort into your work and studies, I truly believe you lived a life more fulfilling than your average person.
Not only that, but you were able to achieve the dream you had as a child of becoming a locomotive engineer…
So why did you do it? You should have lived your life more leisurely and peacefully.
Dai-kun, you were always so kind and devoted to us and so thoughtful of your younger sister. You’ve given me so much joy and happiness. You gave me various gifts too (I still cherish them to this very day), and we even went on trips together. I truly thank you for leaving me with so many wonderful memories.
You were a son to be proud of, and you were my pride and joy (perhaps this was a burden to you?). I’ve left your room as it was, so if you ever wish to return home, please feel free to do so anytime you like. I’ll be waiting for you, I promise.
From your mother.
TO BE CONTINUED…
[UP NEXT: pg 107-144]