Some of Japan’s most scenic cliffs are also the country’s most deadly, but PokéStops located near them have decreased suicide attempts.
Pokémon GO has seen its fair share of, dare I say it, negative press recently — a Lapras sighting caused chaos in Tokyo, a Twitch player was mugged during a livestream in New York City, and someone rammed into a police car while driving and playing the popular virtual Pokémon-catching mobile game.
Ironically, there’s a bit of good news surrounding the Tojinbo cliffs, a well-known tourist attraction in Japan that’s perhaps equally known for its suicide rate. Each year roughly 30 people leap to their death from the tall cliffs that overlook the Sea of Japan in the Fukui Prefecture.
According to Yukio Shige, the atmosphere at Tojinbo has “changed drastically” since Pokémon GO released in July. Shige, a 72-year-old retired Japanese police detective, spends his time patrolling the steep Tojinbo cliffs in search of people ready to take their final jump.
“The area around Tojinbo had been very dark and eerie after 5 p.m. after all the tourists leave,” Shige told The Japan Times on Friday. “But since Pokémon GO was released, the area has been bustling, even late at night.”
Shige credits the area’s recently designated PokéStops for a decreased number of potential suicides attempts. “People who contemplate suicide tend to go to quiet places before finalizing their decision,” he said. “But now such places attract Pokémon GO players.”
Since patrolling the Tojinbo cliffs 12 years ago, Shige has saved over 500 lives; he has a knack for convincing high-risk jumpers to not follow through with their plan. He then takes them to the nearby Tojinbo Non-profit Organization Center, a relaxed cafe, to help them seek the mental attention they need.
In addition, Shige hopes to one day see more face-to-face interaction among Pokémon GO players. A planned future software update will incorporate battling and trading, which will create this environment naturally.
If you would like to learn more about what Shige does, the documentary below provides a detailed, first-hand look.