Dr. Yusuke Narita, an assistant professor of economics at Yale University, has caused outrage with his controversial suggestion for dealing with Japan’s rapidly aging population.
In a recent New York Times profile, Dr. Narita defended his views that mass suicide and ritual disembowelment, known as seppuku, may be the only solution.
He initially made these remarks on a streaming news program in 2021.
“I feel like the only solution is pretty clear,” he said at the time. “In the end, isn’t it mass suicide and mass ‘seppuku’ of the elderly?”
Dr. Narita has since stated that his comments were taken out of context, but they still sparked backlash.
He believes that the mandatory euthanasia of the elderly could allow the younger generations to take over in various aspects of society that the older generation refuses to leave.
“The possibility of making it mandatory in the future,” he said in an interview, will “come up in discussion.”
Dr. Narita said he was “primarily concerned with the phenomenon in Japan, where the same tycoons continue to dominate the worlds of politics, traditional industries, and media/entertainment/journalism for many years.”
Japan’s low birthrate, combined with the largest public debt among first-world countries, has led to a population decrease of over 600,000 in the past year.
Narita’s views have gained him a following, with over 569,000 Twitter followers.
He presents himself in a manner similar to a radio shock jock and frequently appears in Japanese media.
In a class earlier this year, Narita defended his views by showing a clip from the film “Midsommar,” in which a cult forces an elderly member to jump off a cliff.
Narita’s comments received renewed attention in January, causing a sociologist to call it “hatred toward the vulnerable.”
Narita has since softened his language and claimed that he should have been more careful with his words.
He emphasizes that he is not advocating for the introduction of mass suicide, but predicts it to be more widely discussed in the future.
“I am not advocating its introduction,” he said. “I predict it to be more broadly discussed.”
Narita’s detractors argue his statements on the subject are spreading dangerous ideas.
“It’s irresponsible,” said Masaki Kubota, a journalist who has written about Narita. People panicking about the burdens of an aging society “might think, ‘Oh, my grandparents are the ones who are living longer,'” Kubota said, “‘We should just get rid of them.’”
Columnist Masato Fujisaki argued in Newsweek Japan that the professor’s remarks “should not be easily taken as a ‘metaphor.’” Dr. Narita’s fans are people “who think that old people should just die already and social welfare should be cut,” Fujisaki said.