Warning: This article contains mentions of suicide
A Yale University professor has sparked outrage after suggesting that mass suicide and disembowelling were the only way to deal with Japan’s aging population.
Yusuke Narita, who is an assistant professor of economics at Yale, made the comments in 2021 and has since gained hundreds of thousands of followers.
From 2023, Japan currently has a low birth rate and a rapidly aging population.
“I feel like the only solution is pretty clear,” Narita said at the time. “In the end, isn’t it collective suicide and the mass ‘seppuku’ of the elderly?”
Seppuku is the act of disembowelment used in the 19th century – and was a code among disgraced samurai.
Last year he was asked by a student to expand on his theories on mass seppuku, for which he referenced the 2019 horror film, In the middle of summer, where a Swedish cult sends one of its oldest members to commit suicide by jumping off a cliff, as reported by the New York Times.
“Whether that’s a good thing or not is a harder question to answer,” Dr. Narita said. “So if you think that’s good, then maybe you can work hard to build a company like that.”
And in a recent interview with the publication, the 37-year-old claims his comments were “abstract metaphor” and taken out of context.
“I should have paid more attention to their potential negative connotations,” he added. “After some self-reflection, I stopped using the words last year.”
Journalist Masaki Kubota says the professor’s comments are “irresponsible”, saying people “might think, oh, my grandparents are the longest-lived and we should just get rid of them”.
Columnist Masato Fujisaki also argued in Newsweek Japan that the professor’s comments “shouldn’t be easily taken as a ‘metaphor’.
Fujisaki says the professors’ fans are people “who think old people should be dying already and welfare should be taken away.”
Regarding voluntary euthanasia, Narita added, “I am not advocating its introduction. I predict it will be more widely discussed.”
At the time of writing, Narita has over 570,000 Twitter followers.
UNILAD has contacted Narita for comment.