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Saturday, December 10, 2016

Mt. Mihara - A Great Place To Kill Yourself

One of its active volcanoes, Mount Mihara, lies on the Island of Izu Oshima.

Remember when in the old days, in order to appease the volcano god, the elders of the village that had stupidly built a life at the foot of a volcano would sacrifice virgins by tossing them into the glowing maw in the hope it stop an eruption from, well, erupting.

I have no idea if that worked or not… it must have, which was why cultures performed the dastardly act… anyhow, this isn’t about that.

While this article is about a volcano, it is not about sacrificing Japanese virgins, rather it it is about yet another popular suicide spot… one so popular, that some people would travel to the site to watch others plummet to their sad demise.

On the Japanese island of Izu Oshima, south of Tokyo, Mount Mihara resides…

... an active volcano that last had a major eruption in 1986, when it shot fountains of lava up to 1.6 kilometers into the air.

Whether or not the following was the very first suicide via Mount Mihara, is open to debate, but the infamous story takes place on February 11, 1933.

Matsumoto Kiyoko, 21, was a university student who had fallen in love with Tomita Masako, also a student.

In case you don’t know Japanese names, the love Kiyoko had was a lesbian love.

The story is vague as to whether or not the love was reciprocated—I doubt it—which was why Matsumoto decided to kill herself by jumping into the volcano.

Same-sex relationships were very much frowned upon in Japan at that time…

Anyhow, the story goes that Matsumoto was accompanied to the island by Tomita… why? I have no idea! If the feelings weren’t returned, by would the other woman travel with her to the volcano to watch her die?

That sounds sick… 

Matsumoto (and Tomita) went to an observation post on Mount Mihara where visitors can look straight down into the volcano’s lava field.

I am unsure if she was pushed, or whether or not Matsumoto climbed a fence, but the story says she fell to her death in the lava of Mount Mihara.

I suppose Tomita told people about what Matsumoto had done, and the story went 1933-style viral via newspapers who, of course, played up on the fact that Matsumoto was a lesbian.

The island of Izu Oshima soon became the hot new place for Japanese people to go and kill themselves by leaping into the volcano.

Apparently the Tokyo Bay Steamship Company began daily service to the island, as it quickly became a tourist spot for those looking to end their life or those looking to see people end their life or merely those curious to see the place where people were ending their life.

Very quickly, the observation deck of Mount Mihara where Matsumoto apparently fell to her death from, gained the moniker of "Suicide Point".

I think "Lover’s Leap" would have been more obvious.

Despite the plethora of people going to Mount Mihara to kill themselves, it dos not appear as though government park’s officials thought to erect better barriers to keep people from exiting the observation deck for good.

In 1933, some 944 people leaped to their death into Mount Mihara.

In 1934 and 1935, a combined 350 killed themselves in the volcano.

Until WWII began in 1939, an average of 45 Japanese couples a year would throw themselves into the volcano.

The suicide duo death aka a suicide pact, is known as shinjuu in Japanese.

To resolve the issue of people killing themselves at the volcano, along with better security, it became a criminal offense for anyone traveling to Izu Oshima, to purchase a one-way ticket.

“What should I do? I want to kill myself by jumping into the volcanic crater of Mount Mihara, but I don’t want to spend the money on a two-way ticket. Damn. They have foiled my attempt to kill myself. Domo arigato gozaimasu.” 

Mount Mihara remained culturally important to Japan, when it was featured in a pair of Godzilla movies The Return of Godzilla, and Godzilla vs Biollante), and in the horror classic, The Ring (where Shizuko, the mother of Sadako, committed suicide). 

Andrew Joszeph


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