"Jukai is the most popular place for suicide in Japan. The question is why?"


“An exquisite storytelling piece…simply enchanting.”★★★★★
~ Remotegoat
    (read full review)

As a Taiko drummer I would like to convey the art of Japanese drumming. Japanese drumming is deeply rooted in the history of Japanese spirituality and belief systems. I am a woman drummer who is interested in Japanese spirituality. I face obstacles to introduce these traditions. Historically, women have been excluded from spiritual training, and this phenomenon is also found in many cultures. In early Japan, shamanistic rituals and beliefs included women. As these religious traditions became tied to political power, women were more and more excluded from core practices and rituals. This became fully institutionalized after the introduction of Buddhism. Interestingly, Buddhist and Shinto beliefs were practiced in parallel, with terms and rituals of one tradition having similar meanings in the other. Both traditions were strongly grounded in early shamanistic beliefs that viewed natural phenomena in supernatural terms.

Japanese beliefs are tied to the mystery of Nature. Even modern manifestations of Japanese rituals and beliefs reflect the early shamanistic focus on the natural world. The phenomena of Jukai clearly illustrate the Japanese sense of awe when confronted with the natural world stripped of human trappings. What intrigues me most is that many of these natural untouched places are ascribed to female deities. The deity of Mt. Fuji is female, as are most sacred mountains in Japan. Entering into these unspoiled places is viewed as awe inspiring and powerful. The Japanese also describe these powerful experiences as peaceful; for connecting to something grand and beautiful gives comfort and a sense of being part of the sacred. The apparent exception to such positive descriptions of these special places is the “Sea of Trees” found near the base of Mt. Fuji to the west. Jukai is the most popular place for suicide in Japan. The question is why?

Do people who are trapped in this material world seek release in a natural world they see as comforting and beautiful? Does the dense forest in which people quite literally get lost give those who wish to end their lives a sense of solace? Do they feel embraced by the dark beauty that surrounds them? For whatever reasons they choose to enter this forest, I feel Japanese rituals and beliefs influence them. To understand the reality of Jukai is to understand Japanese consciousness at its deepest level.

"Jukai" is a theatrical piece that was devised by Ikuyo Conant with Theatre Temoin. A 15-day workshop was held in September, 2008, followed by a work-in-progress showing. The piece was developed further in 2010 and premiered at the Blue Elephant Theatre in London.


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