Japanese murder style
Japanese society is just as violent as any place else in the world. That runs contrary to the popular myth here at home and abroad that Japan is“safe,” and that harmony and consensus decision making characterize Japan. When it comes to violence the Japanese have a knack for sudden bursts of extreme aggression that puncture the veneer of social nicety. Maybe it’s because they spend their daily lives keeping their feelings inside and dealing with people through the façade of “tatemae” - polite fictions - so that by the time they can no longer contain their accumulated unexpressed frustrations and go kablooie they do it big time. (Witness the Pacific War.) What I am suggesting is that the level of unresolved frustration here is toxic, and outbursts of aggression tend to be unexpected, sudden, and undirected or random.
When it comes to murder, Japanese do not use hand guns nearly as much as, say, Americans do simply because firearms are so heavily regulated/restricted here. Instead, they favor knives, poison, or simple old fashioned bludgeoning. And, their penchant for random versus calculated killing makes it seem inexplicably nefarious more than just simply odd. (It also contributes to the occasional observation that Japanese are stubbornly morally obtuse.) Not that there isn’t a lot of the latter, but the former seems to rule in the mathematics of murder here.
That makes murder in Japan seem more pathological than it does in, say, America. Japanese police are mad about finding the‘reason’ for the crime. To an extent American police search for the reasons as well. But they are far more interested in just collecting enough evidence to prove the suspect’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt in court. In the end, it doesn’t matter what the suspect’s reasons were, or whether a suspect is contrite afterwards. The only important thing is being able to prove the case. But in Japan, where confession and contrition go a long way towards mitigation of sentences, suspects’confessions are sought because confession is deemed the first step in rehabilitation. Their explanations of their crimes are often bizarre nonsense to foreign ears, but represent a typical way of expressing oneself in Japanese. Maybe they are just unfamiliarly honest and therefore strangely admirable.
“I killed him because I didn’t like his attitude.”
“I stabbed him because he looked happier than me.”
“I killed him because I had trouble with him in the past.”
“I killed him because I worried what would become of him after my death.”
“I attacked anybody. I just want the police to take care of me.`
“I killed him because he was too noisy.”
I believe these English renditions of actual explanations I gleaned form the newspapers are accurate translations of the
Japanese. What I mean is, this is really how Japanese talk. It’s amazing that they can talk and talk and talk and say nothing, and then nothing passes as a public debate of issues. Oh, well ...
The most famous recent example of Japanese murder would be the February 1972 standoff at a chalet at Asama sanso in Nagano Prefecturebetween Japanese Red Army terrorist extremists (the “Nippon sekigun”) and police. The Red Army killed 14 of its own members in some kind of demented purge of those who were not Communist enough, or not extreme enough. It played out on livenational TV. The Red Army had its hand in airport and embassy bombings and hijackings, too. Wanted members continue to live freely in exile in North Korea. Some have returned to imprisonment in Japan. Others want their children to return to Japan. In any case, the case of the Nippon sekigun is not over yet.
Then there was the 1995 poison gas attack on Tokyo’s Marunouchi Subway Line by the Aum Shinrikyo religious group. After failing to win any seats in the national legislature in 1993 general elections the doomsday cult became increasingly extreme until finally its ideology/theology became one of “Kill them to save them.” The leaders are still appealing their death sentences.
In 1998 former insurance saleswoman Masumi Hayashi was charged and convicted of the random murder of four at a neighborhood summer festival by spiking a communal curry rice pot with arsenic. Apparently she just didn’t like her neighbors. Well, after listening to the tale of neighborhood gossip and bickering, I can’t blame her.
More recently still was the knife attack in broad daylight in Tokyo’s Akihabara “electric town” district in 2008. A truck driver ran his vehicle into the crowds of weekend pedestrian shoppers, then backed up to run a few over a second time. Then he got out and began finishing people off with a knife. The government was moved to ban double-edged hunting knives. The assailant in that incident used a common kitchen knife, but banning the sale of dangerous-looking hunting knives made the government feel that it was doing something - or, made it feel that it could boast about doing something - proactive, and that’s the way the media spun it.
In November 2008 a 79-year-old woman was sentenced to four years in prison for her random knife assault on young women on
a train platform. She said she wanted the police to arrest her so that someone would take care of her in her old age.
Also in November 2008 one unemployed Takeshi Koizumi was charged with the murder of two former administrative vice health and welfare ministers (civil servants, not politicians). Apparently he went right to the doors of their homes - one right here in my ward of the city, Nakano Ward - disguised as a flower deliveryman, or a “takybin” package deliveryman, but wielding a knife. Police are trying to figure out what kind of person he is. He seems to have lived with no means of support. As for his reasons for killing the retired civil servants: he was angry about the death several years ago of a pet dog. Go figure.