Japanese rail operators give suicidal customers the blues
TOKYO: Alarmed by a rise in people jumping to their deaths in front of trains, some Japanese railway operators are installing special blue lights above station platforms they hope will have a soothing effect and reduce suicides.
East Japan Railway Co is putting blue light-emitting diode, or LED, lights in all 29 stations on Tokyo’s central train loop, the Yamanote Line, used by eight million passengers each day.
There’s no scientific proof that the lights actually reduce suicides, and some experts are sceptical it will have any effect. But others say blue does have a calming effect on people.
“We associate the colour with the sky and the sea,” said Mizuki Takahashi, a therapist at the Japan Institute of Colour Psychology, a private research centre not involved in the lighting project.
“It has a calming effect on agitated people, or people obsessed with one particular thing, which in this case is committing suicide.”
Suicide rates in Japan have risen this year amid economic woes, and could surpass the record 34 427 deaths in 2003. Last year, nearly 2 000 people committed suicide in Japan by jumping in front of a train.
East Japan Railway has spent about 15 million yen, or $165 000, for the special lights at all the Yamanote stations.
The lights, which are brighter than standard fluorescent bulbs, bathe the platform below in an eerie blue light. They hang at the end of each platform, a spot where people are most likely to throw themselves in front of a speeding train, said Norimitsu Suzuki, a company spokesman.
Shinji Hira, a psychology professor specializing in criminal psychology at Fukuyama University in Hiroshima, speculated that blue lights could make people pause and reflect. But he said, if railways want to ensure safety, they should set up fences on platforms, as several Tokyo subway stations have. The barriers have sliding doors that allow passengers access to the trains. – Sapa-AP