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Shinjū (心中, the characters for "mind" and "centre") means "double suicide" in Japanese, as in Shinjū ten no Amijima (The Love Suicides at Amijima), written by the seventeenth-century tragedist Chikamatsu Monzaemon for the puppet theatre (bunraku and/or joruri theatre). In common parlance shinjū is used to refer to any group suicide of persons bound by love, typically lovers, parents and children, and even whole families. In Japanese theatre and literary tradition, double suicides are the simultaneous suicides of two lovers whose ninjo, "personal feelings", or love for one another are at odds with giri, "social conventions" or familial obligations. Double suicides were rather common in Japan throughout history and double suicide is an important theme of the puppet theatre repertory. The tragic denouement is usually known from the audience and is preceded by a michiyuki, a small poetical journey, where lovers evoke the happier moments of their lives and their attempts at loving each other.

Lovers committing double suicide believed that they would be united again in heaven, a view supported by feudal teaching in Edo period Japan, which taught that the bond between husband and wife is continued into the next world[1], and by the teaching of Pure Land Buddhism wherein it is believed that through double suicide, one can approach rebirth in the Pure Land[2]

The film maker Masahiro Shinoda adapted the puppet theatre play Shinjū ten no Amijima as a film in 1969, released under the title: Double Suicide in English, in a modernist adaptation, including a score by Toru Takemitsu.[3]

In the preface he wrote for Donald Keene's book Bunraku, the writer Jun'ichirō Tanizaki complained about the too-long endings of all the double suicide plays, since it is a known denouement. In his novel Some Prefer Nettles, he parodies the notion of shinjū and gives it a social and sensual double suicide with no clear ending.[citation needed]

See also

Further reading


  1. Mitsuya MORI(2004) "Double Suicide at Rosmersholm"
  2. Carl B. Becker (1990) Buddhist Views of Suicide and Euthanasia, Philosophy East and West, V. 40 No. 4 (October 1990) pp. 543-555, University of Hawaii Press

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