Byline: Anthony Faiola
TOKYO -- Glued to a computer screen in his north Tokyo apartment, the stocky, part-time sushi delivery man spent weeks searching the recesses of the Internet. Going simply by the handle "Murata," the 28-year-old surfed for online companions harboring his same dark interest: the desire to die.
He found what he was looking for on a host of new Japanese-language Web sites such as "Underground Suicide" and "Deadline." Promising to supply most of the materials, he made arrangements to kill himself with two anonymous Internet friends on a mid-May afternoon. Face to face for the first time, the three young men drove to a tranquil mountain pass six hours north of Tokyo. They shared sleeping pills, and then -- following detailed instructions posted on a Web site -- set charcoal alight inside their car and died from carbon monoxide poisoning.
"Maybe he didn't have high hopes for the future, but it is still so hard to understand how he could have done it," said Murata's 35-year-old brother, who shared their apartment. He spoke on condition that both their names be withheld. "I've disconnected the Internet at home, at least while our family comes to terms with this."
The deaths of the three men marked only one incident in an extraordinary …