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'Life has become so hard': Nepali student's suicide shows problems of Japanese dream

Rukesh Gosain stands on the path he and his friend Rabin Ghemosu used to jog down, in Fussa, Tokyo, on April 13, 2019. (Mainichi/Naoki Watanabe)

TOKYO -- The body of Rabin Ghemosu, a 26-year-old Nepalese student studying in Japan, was found in a forest in Fussa, western Tokyo, in May 2014. He left a post on Facebook reading "Life has become so hard." Loan receipts from friends and insurance bills were pinned on the walls of his bedroom; notes about his feelings of isolation were also found.

Though only a few tens of thousands of yen remained in his bank account, under a list of friends he still owed money to he'd written, "I want to pay back the loans from my savings." He seemed to have wanted to reduce burdens he would cause to his friends due to his death, if only a little.

"I could definitively have saved his life," said Rukesh Gosain, 33, Ghemosu's best friend, who always thinks about him. They came from the same town and ethnic group, their family homes only 15 minutes apart on foot. After graduating from university, Gosain taught beginner learners at a Japanese school in Nepal where Ghemosu was a student.

Ghemosu completed high school and moved to Japan as a Japanese language school student in Fussa in October 2010. Half a year later Gosain joined him; before long they were roommates and worked the same part-time job at a food preparation plant for a family restaurant chain. The pair bonded over a desire to excel at the language, deciding to converse to each other only in Japanese. "We drank together on the day of a Nepali festival. We were like brothers," said Gosain.

Rukesh Gosain, left, and Rabin Ghemosu pose together in a photo from their student days, taken in Fussa, Tokyo, in January 2012. (Provided by Rukesh Gosain)

In the period following his arrival, Ghemosu's Facebook page was peppered with pictures of trips with friends to spots including aquariums and Tokyo Disneyland. But as his time far from home continued he became increasingly isolated. He was reserved; colleagues said he would take their jokes personally and get angry. Arguments broke out at school, too, to the point that Gosain even accompanied Ghemosu to apologize to the principal.

In March 2013 Ghemosu suddenly said he wanted to live separately. For Gosain, who had decided to return to university, solo living was unsustainable. It caused a huge row, but they ended up living in different parts of the neighborhood. From then on they barely spoke at work. A year later, Ghemosu ended his life.


In March 2019 this reporter went to Nepal to find out about Ghemosu's life before Japan. I visited his family, who run a chicken farm in the ancient city of Bhaktapur, about an hour by car from the capital Kathmandu. I met his father Bishnu at their apartment. Even now he struggles to believe his son is gone. "When I heard he wanted to go to Japan I was happy. I don't understand why he died."

Ghemosu was the youngest of three siblings. As a child he loved anime; his hobbies included collecting Japanese CDs and knickknacks. He even learned to use chopsticks. For his son to study abroad, Bishnu loaned him 1.2 million rupees (about 1.2 million yen, or nearly $11,000).

Through his part-time job, Ghemosu occasionally sent back between 50,000 and 100,000 yen. But his sister Sunita said in his phone calls home Ghemosu sometimes alluded to loneliness or stress from studying and working simultaneously.

Rabin Ghemosu's parents Nuche Kesari, right, and Bishnu, left, wipe away tears as they look at a memorial photograph of their son, as seen in Bhaktapur, central Nepal, on March 4, 2019. (Mainichi/Jun Kaneko)

Around February 2014, three years and four months after leaving Nepal, he made his only visit home. He seemed happy when he spoke with friends and family, but his mother, Nuche Kesari, saw pain in his eyes. On the day he returned to Japan, she asked him to stay. "Don't go to Japan, we don't need the money." But he just muttered that he had to return.

In May of the same year, he called his father. "I want to go back to Nepal," he said. His father told him to try a little longer. "When I think about it now, he sounded so distressed," commented his dad. He says he can never forget his son's voice that day.

Around the time, Ghemosu appeared at Gosain's apartment in the middle of the night. He was all smiles, suggesting they live together again, but Gosain refused. Ghemosu pleaded with him to stay at his place but Gosain rejected that too. After 2 to 3 minutes of silence Ghemosu left. His body was found days later.

In his heart, Gosain has apologized countless times. He never thought a life could be ended so easily. The service was held at a funeral hall in Tokyo. Gosain and other friends got the money together to bring Ghemosu's father Bishnu to Japan. After the service, his father took the ashes back to Nepal where they were scattered in a river in accordance with Hindu customs.

Nobody, Gosain included, knew just how lonely Ghemosu had been. He thinks the "Life has become so hard" Facebook post came from a loneliness stemming from feelings of responsibility to his family and those he borrowed money from. When he died, around half of the 1.2 million yen loan to study in Japan had remained unpaid. His parents sold their land to settle the debts.

Rukesh Gosain walks down a path he and Rabin Ghemosu used to jog on, in Fussa, Tokyo, on April 13, 2019. (Mainichi/Naoki Watanabe)

Gosain also keenly feels the responsibility to support one's family. It's been eight years since he left Nepal. Before completing his postgraduate studies last year he led a life immersed only in studies and work. He also borrowed money from friends in Japan to pay tuition fees. From April 2019 he started work in server maintenance for an IT firm in Tokyo. On his life here he said, "Nepal is filled with an invisible abundance. Things like love and friendship. Living in Japan, I now realize how blessed I was." Gosain continues to think of what he's lost, knowing he can't return home before his work here is complete.


8 student suicides in Japan in 2017: NGO psychologist

Ministry of Justice figures show at the end of 2018 there were 337,000 foreign students in Japan. The highest numbers are from China, with about 132,400, followed by Vietnam at around 81,000 pupils, then Nepal with approximately 29,000.

Statistics on foreign student suicides are not compiled, but Bijay Gyawali, 36, a clinical psychologist who lives in Japan and works for an international nongovernmental organization (NGO), has carried out his own investigations on the issue. According to his findings, eight of the at least 15 Nepalis who died in Japan in 2017 had taken their own lives.

In a survey Gyawali carried out in 2018 on 353 foreign students, 198 (56%) said they suffer from stress caused by financial concerns, while some 115 (33%) of respondents feel anxiety from having no one to help them here.

(Japanese original by Jun Kaneko, City News Department)

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