When 19 year old Japanese student Kiyoko Matsumoto committed suicide by throwing herself into an active volcano in 1933, she could not have foreseen the fad that would follow. Over the next two years hundreds of other young Japanese followed her example, the final tally of deaths being well over three hundred.
In 1935 a journalist for Time magazine reported that Kiyoko Matsumoto had been a sensitive young woman who had been attending a college for girls in Tokyo. When she had confided in her school friend Masako Timoto that she was “bewildered to distraction by the perplexities of maturing womanhood”, her friend suggested she throw herself into a volcano. She escorted Kiyoko to the island of Oshima, some three hours steamer ride from the capital where, having written a final note, Kiyoko duly cast herself down into the molten volcanic cone of Mihara-yama.
The story became a sensation in the Japanese press, and Matsumoto and Timoto instant national identities, and a wave of copy-cat suicides began. The death-toll mounted quickly, and marooned in the eye of a press storm at the tragedy, Masako Timoto quietly died.
Her passing did nothing to stem the deaths, however, and by 1935 Mihara-yama had swallowed up 350 suicides, young males as well as females, and had seen more than 1380 attempts. The section of the volcano lip where people leapt became known as Suicide Point, and steamers did a lively trade ferrying day-trippers out from Tokyo to watch, some of whom it seemed suddenly found themselves unaccountably unable to resist the urge, and themselves jumped.
Part of the problem became identified with what the Japanese called “lesbian suicide”, involving girls who did not know how to deal with lesbian feelings. One group which worked to prevent such deaths said it had saved more than 2,500 girls from “lesbian suicide” by innovations such as houses where they were asked to pause and take stock, dubbed Wait-A-Bits.
From my book "Dead Famous: Deaths of the Famous and Famous Deaths".
Available through Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Dead-Famous-Deaths-Famus/dp/1741105641/ref=sr_1_15?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1277516386&sr=8-15