WASHINGTON (TND) — A Yale University professor is facing a fierce wave of backlash for reportedly suggesting that elderly people in Japan should just kill themselves to help their country.
Yusuke Narita is a 37-year-old assistant professor of economics at the Ivy League school. He recently paraded his controversial solution through multiple publications and interviews, according to the New York Times.
The paper reports that, during a news program in 2021, Narita said that he "feel[s] like the only solution is pretty clear" when it comes to Japan's issue of having an increasingly-aging population.
In the end, isn’t it mass suicide and mass ‘seppuku’ of the elderly?" Narita said, according to the Times.
"Seppuku" is a form of ritual suicide that originated out of Japan's ancient warrior class of samurai, according to History.com. It involves slicing open one's stomach and then turning the blade upward to ensure death.
Seppuku is typically done to achieve an "honorable death" and sometimes done to evade capture and torture. It was also sometimes used as a form of protest. Samurai who were sentenced to capital punishment often turned to seppuku as a means to showcase extreme bravery and again, honor.
Narita, by suggesting that Japan's elderly commit seppuku to cure the country of its issues with its older population, is apparently saying that they should all kill themselves in a mass suicide to somehow better their society.
However, when talking with the New York Times, Narita claimed his words were "taken out of context." Instead of being dead, Narita clarifies he wants Japan's elderly to simply be removed from positions of power.
I should have been more careful about their potential negative connotation," Narita reportedly said of his use of the term "seppuku," adding that it was "an abstract metaphor."
Narita claims to the New York Times that, "after some self-reflection," he stopped using that term sometime last year.
However, Narita has reportedly become somewhat famous in Japan with youth who believe that elderly people in places of political power within the country are harming society. He has attained well over half a million followers on Twitter since voicing his suggestion for elderly seppuku.
Critics of the Yale professor told the New York Times that Narita's remarks are "irresponsible" and many of his supporters "believed old people should just die already."
Journalist Masaki Kubota reportedly said that people in Japan “might think, ‘oh, my grandparents are the ones who are living longer and we should just get rid of them,'" after hearing Narita's "irresponsible" suggestion.
A historian at the University of Connecticut named Alexis Dudden reportedly studies modern Japan, and says that Narita isn't "focusing on helpful strategies such as better access to day care or broader inclusion of women in the work force or broader inclusion of immigrants," or other "things that might actually invigorate Japanese society."
While some surveys in Japan reportedly show a majority supporting legalized euthanasia, The New York Times says that Narita told them he believes "euthanasia (either voluntary or involuntary) is a complex, nuanced issue. I am not advocating its introduction."
Older generations are traditionally revered and honored in Japan, and Narita's views and the views of his supporters, indicate a growing cohort of youth bucking those traditions, the Times says.