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    15 Nov 2015

    Tojimbo The Rugged Japanese Suicide Cliffs and The Guardian Angel Who Patrols Them

    The hilly cliffs of Tojimbo  in Fukui Prefecture and their sheer drops into the raging, green Sea of Japan, is a top destination for tourists, but this place is less known for its stunning scenery than for suicide. In its worst, more than 25 people a year have chosen the towering hills of Tojimbo as their final destination for ending their lives.

    The series of basaltic cliffs on the Sea of Japan, located in the Antō part of Mikuni-chō in Sakai, Fukui Prefecture, stretch for 1 km.  Why Japanese people pick this place to end their life when they are feeling desperate, nobody knows for sure.

    Although, the place was doomed as it from the beginning. According to a  legend, corrupt Buddhist priest from Heisen-ji, a local temple, so enraged the populace that they dragged him from the temple to the sea and, at Tōjinbō, threw the priest into the sea. The locals claim that his ghost is still haunting the area.

    There is another legend ( as depressing as the first one), that claims the name Tōjinbō comes from a dissolute Buddhist monk. According to the legend, a Buddhist monk named Tōjinbō, who was disliked by everyone, fell in love with a beautiful princess named Aya.Tōjinbō was tricked by another admirer of Princess Aya and was pushed off these cliffs. The legend says that ever after that time Tōjinbō’s vengeful ghost would go on a rampage around the same time every year at this place, causing strong winds and rain. Some decades later, an itinerant priest took pity on Tōjinbō and held a memorial service for him. After that, the storms ceased.

    But just before you define these cliffs as the most doomed and depressing place on the planet, there is one  phenomenon that brings a glimpse of light in this dark cliffs. Every day a human figure tirelessly stands on the cliff, not in a hesitation, whether to jump or not, but to patrol the area and to prevent suicides.

    Yukio Shige, a 70-year-old retired police officer who dedicated 10 years of his life trying to lower the suicide rate in this particular region of Japan.

    It all started  in the fall of 2003. Shige had joined the police force in 1962 and was on one of his last patrols before retirement. An eldep1010315rly couple on a bench caught his attention.They ran a pub whose business had declined: they were hopelessly in debt. At  sunset, they would plunge off the cliff into the sea.He called for a patrol car, took the couple to the public welfare bureau, and helped with the formalities. Five days later, he received a letter. It was from the couple. They’d been refused welfare and had gone to Nagaoka, Niigata Prefecture – where, after sending the letter, they hanged themselves.

    From that on Shige found his calling, he compiled a group of 22 volunteers recruited by the NPO he founded, and they have saved more than 500 lives.

    “You can tell, generally, when a solitary wanderer is no mere sightseer. If someone looks troubled, Shige or one of the others approaches and starts a casual conversation: “Hi, where you from?” “Leave me alone, I’ve had enough!”” explains Shige.



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