JAPAN: Suicide Point

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Once morbid Japanese ripe for Death would dispatch themselves with a dagger, elaborately disemboweling themselves in a ritual of exquisite pain. Today such heroic acts of hara-kiri ("belly-cut") are rare. Suicide has gone cheap, and last week Japan's go-getting suicide tycoon, owl-eyed Jinnojo Hayashi, scored another coup. For the second time this year sensation-hungry tourists at his Suicide Point witnessed a triple plunge into the sulphur-stinking maw of Death.

Respected Mr. Hayashi is president of the highly profitable and progressive Tokyowan Kisen Kaisha (Tokyo Bay Steamship Co.) which is proudly building the world's first airflow liner. This streamlined Diesel beauty will speed tourists and prospective suicides from Tokyo 59 miles to the Island of Oshima in 3½ hours. President Hayashi has provided all sorts of conveniences to get passengers from the landing dock up sulphur-belching Mihara-yama (Mount Mihara) to popular Suicide Point on the crater's brim. One may even ride a camel, one of the first three ever imported into Japan, all by Go-Getter Hayashi. Last week his publicity men, inspired by the windfall of a second triple suicide this year, excitedly conjectured "The God of Death must now have taken up his abode in Mihara-yama and is calling men in threes to their doom."

Up to Suicide Point has come even the Son of Heaven, sublime Emperor Hirohito. who ably repressed any impulse he may have felt to jump. For the common run of modern maladjusted Japanese a leap into the volcano seems infinitely more attractive than to plunge a dagger into his vitals in the classic way. Last week the usual group of perhaps 150 sightseers were clustered fascinated on the brink, regaled by their guide with gruesome suicide stories, when abruptly things began to happen.

First a Japanese youth in neat store clothes suddenly broke from the tourist ranks just as a sulphur cloud belched up, leaped into the crater. Next with a wild yell a second youth in store clothes followed the first. After that for minutes nothing happened. The tourists, their nerves tingling with thrills, turned gradually away, began to leave the crater. Just then a mild-mannered young man in a Japanese kimono inched imperceptibly toward the edge. Several Japanese ladies screamed as he stripped off his kimono, revealing a handsome torso stark naked. "Police!" cried the ladies. "Stop him!" But clean as an arrow the yellow body sped, disappeared into the curling yellow fumes, spattered upon Death Ledge 600 ft. below.

Suicide Point and President Hayashi owe everything to Miss Kiyoko Matsumoto, an attractive but highly sensitive student of Jissen Girls College in Tokyo. Just two years ago Miss Matsumoto confided to a chum: "Dearest, I am bewildered to distraction by the perplexities of maturing womanhood. I can stand the strain no longer. What shall I do? I should like to jump into a volcano."

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