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Japanese Suicide Apartments - Tofugu

It’s no secret that Japan has one of the highest suicide rates in the world. It’s unfortunate, but very true. Just look at Aokigahara, the most popular place in all of Japan to off yourself. It’s tragic, really. Sadly, this year marks the 14th straight year that suicides in Japan have reached over 30,000. While the most popular way to go is by train, many also kill themselves in their own homes which then go on to become the bane of landlords everywhere.

Speaking of trains though, while they are one of Japan’s favorite obsessions, they’re also potential suicide machines. People I know have been warned to not look at oncoming trains because of the possibility that someone might jump in front of them. It’s not exactly something you’d want to witness. I don’t know about you, but I’d be pretty uncomfortable seeing that.

Death has a new face.

Apparently this is more common on the yellow and orange colored lines because they are “happy” colors, which seems quite odd considering, but whatever. Sometimes these lines have straighter rails which allow the trains to reach higher speeds which then in turn make the suicide attempt more likely to succeed, but this article isn’t about trains and this is getting depressing so let’s move on.

The Bachelor Pad of Doom

In Japan, potential buyers must be informed if someone ever committed suicide in the property they’re looking to buy or rent. Unfortunately, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for landlords to move these so called suicide apartments. In most cases they have to significantly reduce the normal asking price. Nine out of ten Japanese agree – these properties aren’t even worth looking at, regardless of how slashed the prices are. Apartments that people killed themselves in are creepy.

Some Japanese people view taking one’s life as brave and heroic. While I can’t really say I agree there, many Japanese people who feel this way also believe the total opposite when it comes to killing yourself in your own home or apartment. They view it as incredibly inconsiderate. They’d rather have you go off to Aokigahara or something and do it there.

While sad to think about, this belief kind of makes sense as many landlords have taken to the habit of passing the losses in sales onto the families of the deceased tenants. They sue the remaining family members for purification rituals, cleaning costs, repairs, and lost rental income. These fees add up fast and quickly amount to ridiculous sums. Some landlords even go so far as to sue for the amount required to totally demolish the building and just build another one in its place.

The situation has gotten so out of hand that the Japan Suicide Survivors Network has asked the ruling Democratic Party of Japan to pass some sort of legislation that would prevent stuff like this from happening, or at least lessen the blow a bit. In one case, a young woman killed herself in her apartment and the landlord showed up during her funeral to demand 6 million (~$75,500) so that he could hire a priest to “cleanse” the property. Talk about insensitive. Even worse was that the family was so upset that they didn’t even argue. They just paid up.

“Hello, we’re here to take all of your money.”

In another case, a salaryman killed himself in his apartment and the landlord asked the family to pay 2 million (~$25,000) for “repairs” and another 5 million (~$63,000) for “estimated future losses due to reduced rent.” The family hired a lawyer, but it didn’t do them much good. They still ended up paying over 2 million.

Another landlord demanded 120 million (~$1,510,500), saying that the entire building was “cursed” and he would have to completely rebuild it. Yikes. And how do you even prove that a place is cursed anyway? I really wonder how much of these payments are legitimate and how much is just the landlords taking unfair advantage of emotionally distraught families.

But Why?

So how can this be legal? Almost all rental agreements state that the tenant must leave the property in the exact same state as it was when the tenant moved in or they will face fees. If you think about it, after a person commits suicide in a rental unit, it becomes, in a way, defective property. This gives landlords an avenue to sue the families for the monetary damages inflicted by the suicide victim.

And why are the Japanese so afraid of suicide apartments? Well like I said, the property becomes defective in the eyes of many Japanese. Plus, just knowing that someone offed themselves in your current home is pretty damn creepy. As you know, Japanese people on the whole can be extremely superstitious and many believe in ghosts, hauntings, and curses.

Just look at all the horror movies that come out of Japan. When’s the last time you saw a Japanese slasher film? Oh, that’s right, never. They even give super low rates on apartments that just happen to be close to a graveyard. The Japanese don’t want anything to do with dead people and their haunting spirits.

I’m pretty sure that other countries give discounts on these sorts of properties as well, but it seems to be to a much greater extent in Japan. The stigma, discounts, and legal actions are all much bigger over there than anywhere else I’ve ever heard of. It’s crazy.

So tell me, would you live in one of these suicide apartments? What if it was really nice and the rent was super cheap? If you found out your current place was a suicide property, how much of a discount would you need to continue living there? Think these landlords should be able to sue these families? Let us know in the comments!

Sites Referenced: BBC: The stigma of Japan’s ‘suicide apartments’ The Japan Times: Landlords getting tough with families of suicides

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