A Yale professor suggested that Japan's old people should kill themselves in a mass suicide, and it made him a celebrity

An elderly woman crosses the street in Japan.
An elderly woman walks in a street in Tokyo's Tsukiji area on March 13, 2020.CHARLY TRIBALLEAU/AFP via Getty Images
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  • A Yale professor said in an interview that mass suicide could solve Japan's aging population issue.

  • His controversial opinions have made him popular with Japan's youth, per The New York Times.

  • Yusuke Narita now has a large social media following and even appeared in an energy drink advert.

A Yale professor who suggested that mass suicide could be the solution to Japan's aging population has gained celebrity status among the country's youth, even appearing in an advertisement for energy drinks, The New York Times reported.

Yusuke Narita, an assistant professor of economics at Yale University, has argued for the controversial solution to Japan's aging population in several public appearances and interviews, The Times reported.

Japan has the highest proportion of elderly citizens of any country in the world, and the percentage of the population aged over 65 has steadily increased since the 1950s.

Last month, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said the country was on the verge of a crisis.

In an interview with an online Japanese news program in December 2021, Narita said a "pretty clear solution" would be the introduction of mass suicide, or mass "seppuku" of the elderly.

Seppuku refers to the ritual suicide of samurai, which historically involved self-disembowelment.

When pressed by a teenager on his mass seppuku theory last year, Narita referred to a scene in the 2019 horror film "Midsommar" in which an elderly person is sent to die by suicide by jumping off a cliff, according to The Times.

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

He has also discussed euthanasia, a politically contentious debate in Japan, saying that making assisted suicide mandatory in the future will "come up in discussion," The Times reported.

In speaking of euthanasia, Narita has sometimes mentioned his mother, who had an aneurysm when she was 19, describing how caring for her costs him 100,000 yen ($755) a month, per the newspaper.

The controversial positions have worried some Japanese policymakers, with critics concerned that it could lead to the kind of public feeling that resulted in a 1948 eugenics law, The Times reported.

The Eugenic Protection Law allowed for voluntary and involuntary sterilizations of people with hereditary diseases, mental illnesses, and intellectual disabilities.

Despite his detractors, Narita has gained a large following in Japan among young people who feel like the older generations are stunting their economic progress.

He has more than 550,000 followers on Twitter, regularly appears on online Japanese shows, has been on magazine covers, and appeared in an advertisement for energy drinks, The Times said.

Speaking to The Times, Narita said his comments have largely been taken out of context, and his focus is on the dominance of "tycoons" in Japan.

He also told the newspaper that using the terms "mass suicide" and "mass seppuku" was intended only as "abstract metaphors," adding that he has since stopped using those phrases.

Narita did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.

Read the original article on Business Insider