This month Japan marked 23 years since the sarin gas attacks in the Tokyo subway on March 20, 1995. Twelve people lost their lives and several thousands were injured, with many people still suffering from the aftermath of the attack.
The attack was planned and carried out by the guru and the followers of a religious cult called AUM Shinrikyo. When most people think of religion, they imagine ideals of "valuing life," but because this cult mistakenly believed that it was under attack, it carried out heinous crimes one after the other. That is of course something that can never be forgiven.
Many of the followers of this religious group were young people, and that fact attracted a lot of attention socially. Among those young members, there were those who had graduated from so-called first rate universities right alongside those still in their teens that had been ordained by AUM, all living together with other members of the cult. But why did these young people join a group with such twisted beliefs about the world and end up committing crimes?
At the time, one believer said that when they graduated from university and began working at a company, they felt that they were nothing more than a single "gear" in the system. However, when they joined AUM, they received a special name and role within the group, and they finally felt as if they had value.
They simply wanted somewhere they belonged. They wanted friends who would welcome them. They wanted to be someone who was irreplaceable. Even now, there must be many young people wishing for these things. Even though they are told to do their best to shine, chances for them to show their personal skills don't come. They might even start to think, "If someone like me were to disappear, probably no one would even notice."
While Japan's overall suicide rate has fallen for eight straight years, suicides among minors have slowly increased. Among those 34 years old and under, the top cause of death continues to be suicide. There are still children and young people who feel hopeless about living and can't ask for help from anyone. These people have most certainly not disappeared.
However, we cannot allow these young people to join cults and other groups like AUM Shinrikyo that take the lives of others without a qualm. There has to be a place that will accept those who feel lost and where they can recognize their own value. But even though more than 20 years have passed since the sarin gas attacks, we adults have still not been able to provide children and young people with such a place.
Soon it will be April, and I hope this spring will be one that warms the spirits of all of those children and young people. (By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)