Yale professor suggesting mass suicides for elderly gains popularity in Japan

Speaking about euthanasia in an interview, the professor said that "the possibility of making it mandatory in the future" will occur.
Elderly people working out, Tokyo, Japan, Sept. 19, 2016

Yale Assistant Economic Professor Yusuke Narita is gaining popularity in Japan for suggesting elderly people should commit mass suicide.

Narita, 37, has hundreds of thousands of Twitter followers and frequently appears on Japanese television shows, magazine covers and even an energy drink advertisement, The New York Times reported Sunday. 

"I feel like the only solution is pretty clear," Narita said in an online show in 2021. "In the end, isn’t it mass suicide and mass ‘seppuku’ of the elderly?"

Seppuku, or hara-kiri, is a form of Japanese ritual suicide by disembowelment that was in the samurai code for those who were dishonored.

When Narita was asked last year to elaborate on his seppuku theories, he described a scene from the horror movie "Midsommar" where one of the oldest members of a cult committed suicide by jumping off a cliff. 

"Whether that’s a good thing or not, that’s a more difficult question to answer," Narita said. "So if you think that’s good, then maybe you can work hard toward creating a society like that." 

Speaking about euthanasia in another interview, he said that "the possibility of making it mandatory in the future" will occur.

Narita said his comments have been "taken out of context" and he has stopped using the terms "mass suicide" and "mass seppuku" last year due to their "potential negative connotations."

His comments have touched upon a hot-button issue in Japan, where 29% of the population is over the age of 65, according to the outlet The Diplomat. In the United States, for comparison, 16.8% of the population is over the age of 65, Census data shows.

Narita's comments received backlash online. 

"The people clamoring for grandma to be set adrift on an ice floe always seem to ignore their own family members," one Twitter user said.

"Why you might be lucky you could not get into Yale," reporter Greta Van Susteren tweeted with a link to an article about the professor's controversial comments.