The First Known Internet-Related Suicide Pact, Happened In Japan


A suicide pact is term to describe an agreed plan between two or more individuals to die by suicide. The pact is usually planned so the people who want to be involved to die together simultaneously, or in separate conditions but still closely timed.

This kind of pact has happened long ago, even before the internet. It has been a story and inside news throughout history, as well as in fiction and culture.

In larger cases for example, suicide pacts have been tied to incidents like mass suicides, where a large number of people kill themselves together for the same ideological reason, often within a religious, political, military or paramilitary context. In smaller cases, suicide pacts have also been tied to incidents that involved married or romantic partners, family members and friends, or even criminal partners.

When the internet started being commercialized, one of the very first known suicide that involved the technology, happened in Israel.

The first suicide pact that involved the technology however, happened in Japan.

It happened in October 2000, which was then followed by another incident in 2003, when a young man and two young women committed suicide in what "became a landmark incident of Internet suicide pacts in Japan due to heavy media coverage".

Aokigahara forest
Aokigahara forest that is located along the edge of Mount Fuji, is referred to the most prevalent suicide site in Japan. The forest can see more suicides around March, as the month is considered the end of the fiscal year in the country. (Credit: /VCG Photo)

The Japanese culture is not directly influenced by the Middle East or the West. As an island country in East Asia, located in the northwest Pacific Ocean, Japan is far also far from Europe, and away from the influences originating from the Southeast Asia region.

Geographically unique, Japan also sees some things uniquely, and rather differently than most of the world.

One of the most notable, is Japan's “Kamikaze”, where suicide air attack squad commit suicide as a sacrifice to kill more enemies at the end of World War II. Japan is also known to have provided unique views on suicides, like for example, through hara-kiri and shinjyuu. And lastly, suicide in Japan is also unique because the act is often accompanied by meanings of valiance and vindication.

Suicide has a longstanding cultural association with saving one's and/or the family's fame.

And when the internet comes into play, according to the database of Asahi Shinbun, a major Japanese newspaper, specific incident of suicide pact involving the internet first appeared in October 2000, but was reported under usual Shinjyuu headline.

In the report, it was said that the victims hardly knew each other, and their stories didn't connect until a follow-up story made in February 2003, when another suicide pact was reported.

The news was about one young man and two young women who met on the internet, and suffocate themselves to death using briquettes, which are compressed block of coal dust or other combustible material used for fuel and kindling to start a fire.

The deaths occurred by carbon monoxide poisoning.

Charcoal burning
Besides heat, burning charcoal also produces carbon monoxide. If inhaled for over a period of two hours, carbon monoxide concentrations of as little as one part per thousand can be fatal.

Unlike murders that involved the internet, even after news coverage and media reports that connect suicide pacts with the technology, internet-connected suicide pacts are far rarer.

Even in Japan, where many suicide pacts occurred in the past, reports suggested that the internet was only involved in 2% of all suicide pacts in the country, and less than 0.01% of all suicides combined.

However, as the internet has become more common and more accessible, suicide pacts through the internet happened more frequent.

In 2003 for example, 34 deaths from such pacts were reported, and at least 50 deaths were estimated to have occurred in 2004. In 2005, that number again grew to 91 deaths.

This happened because previously, before the internet, there was no way for anyone to directly encourage other people to die. But when the internet started playing a role in connecting distant people through various platforms, anyone can influence others to kill themselves, even anonymously. This can be direct or indirectly, through fetishes, or even harassment and cyberbullying among others.

Before the internet, people have no way to meet other suicide candidates. With the internet, things changed. Japanese people reportedly capable of finding statements, like "I want to die too, let's do it together" in suicide sites.

One of the most notable example of internet-related suicide pact, would be Hiroshi Maeue' case.

On March 28, 2007, he was sentenced to death by hanging, after alleged murdered three participants in a suicide pact.