The World’s Most Romantic Death Spot: Japan’s Suicide Volcano

Would you let yourself be consumed by burning love at an infamous volcano where thousands have taken the plunge? Providentia writes:

On February 11, 1933, a 21-year old student named Kiyoko Matsumoto committed suicide by throwing herself into the volcanic crater of Mount Mihara on the Japanese island of Izu Oshima. Matsumoto had developed an infatuation with fellow student Masako Tomita. Since lesbian relationships were considered taboo at the time, she and Tomita decided to travel to the volcano so that Matsumoto could end her life there,  [where] an observation post allowed visitors to look straight down into the lava.

To profit from Izu Oshima’s new popularity, the Tokyo Bay Steamship Company set up a daily steamship line to the island and the brim of Mount Mihara picked up the new name of “Suicide Point”. In 1933 alone, 944 people would jump into the crater. In the two years that followed saw an additional 350 suicides and visitors would often travel to Mount Mihara just to watch people jump.

Newspapers had played on Kiyoko Matsumoto’s sexual orientation and “lesbian suicide” became a new cultural meme in Japan. There was the romantic aspect of Matsumoto’s death, and Mount Mihara became a popular spot for mutual suicide pacts (known as shinjuu in Japan). Until the outbreak of World War 2, as many as 45 couples would commit suicide each year by throwing themselves into the volcano.

The Mount Mihara suicide epidemic eventually ended through enhanced security to prevent suicides and making it a criminal offense to purchase a one-way ticket to the island.

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