TOKYO, JAPAN — A rash of suicides has prompted the authorities in Tokyo to consider whether to restrict a bestselling book that teaches people how to kill themselves.

The Complete Manual of Suicide, which has sold 1.2 million copies, promises its readers "the peace of mind of knowing you can leave this troubled world whenever you choose."

It details 10 methods of self-slaughter, including hanging, electrocution and immolation, and compares them in terms of pain, speed and disfigurement.

The manual compares 10 methods of self-slaughter in terms of pain, speed and disfigurement.

Illustrated with charts, maps and manga comics, the 200 pages contain recommendations about the best spots to die, tips about avoiding detection and descriptions of celebrity suicides.

Parents' groups complain that the book glamorises suicide, but only a handful of local authorities have introduced restrictions on its sale since it was published six years ago. This tolerance reflects liberal publishing laws and a traditional view of suicide as an act that is honourable rather than criminal.

But attitudes have hardened this year after an alarming 35% rise in the number of suicides has given Japan one of the highest rates in the world. Record unemployment, intense exam pressure and a rapidly ageing population are the main causes of the rise, but the finger is also being pointed at the manual.

The book has been blamed for the rising body count in the woods at the foot of Mount Fuji, described as "the perfect place to die."

The book has been blamed for the rising body count in Aokigahara, a dense wood at the foot of Mount Fuji that is described in the manual as "the perfect place to die". Last year a record 74 corpses were found among the trees.

In Tokyo the book was found beside two young suicide victims this year, prompting police to demand that sales be limited to people over 18.

In the wake of an 85% increase in the number of young people who killed themselves in the capital last year, suicide prevention groups agree that action is necessary.

"We have had calls from people in great pain because they followed the book's instructions, but failed to kill themselves," said Yukiko Nishihara, founder of a Tokyo helpline.

Under existing bylaws, which cover only publications of a sexual or violent nature, the Tokyo metropolitan government cannot prohibit the manual. But officials have begun looking at whether to change the rules.

"Clearly, there are growing public concerns about this book that we have to address, if necessary by enacting new regulations," said Shigemitsu Sekiguchi, who is heading the study. He said the new regulations, if approved, could be in place by the end of next year.

The book's author, Turumi Wataru, says he is being made a scapegoat. "No one ever killed themselves just because of my book," he said. "The authorities are blaming me because they are unwilling to take responsibility for the economic, political and social problems that are the real cause of suicides."

"I want people under the age of 18 to read this book," Wataru said. "They need it more than anyone."

But his publishers are feeling the pressure: the Tokyo market accounts for 70% of the book's sales. To pre-empt a decision, they have slapped a warning on the book's cover saying that it is not suitable for under-18s.

This has infuriated Mr Wataru, who has vowed to find a new publisher. "I want people under the age of 18 to read this book," he said. "They need it more than anyone.

"It is important that people realise that suicide is not wrong. It is the right of every individual to kill themselves and, no matter what laws you enact, you cannot stop it."

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