Readers in Council,
The Japan Times,
5-4 Shibaura 4-chome,
Minato-ku, Tokyo 108-0023
It feels that the media are painting 53-year-old construction worker Sanoji Sakaguchi as some kind of notorious predator of children, or at least as an infamous scoundrel in the case of the 11-year-old Saga Prefecture boy whom he allegedly injured in a hit-and-run incident. The evidence that Sakaguchi moved and hid the skull-fractured boy in a panic, and later fled from a police officer calling for back-up after spotting him, make for a really bad image indeed, it’s true.
But it seems that Sakaguchi is being put across in the press as a stereotypic bad guy. The bad guy is responsible for the bad incident, end of story, case closed, no further consideration necessary. Probing his demented mind will teach us how safer we would be by capturing these miscreants and removing them from society. But I disagree, and I feel upset by how Sakaguchi is being singularly vilified. I first learned of the hit-and-run incident from NHK’s 6:00 bilingual news, and I heard details reported there that I have not seen or heard repeated on television or in the press. What was originally reported by the television network was that the boy was supposedly hit after riding his bicycle onto a main road from a narrow side road. Video from the site of the accident lent itself to this interpretation. So it was immediately evident to me that what had happened was that the boy had rushed onto a main road with his bicycle without looking - a chronic and typically Japanese trait.
Sakaguchi must be punished for his role. But prosecuting him will not make Japan a safer country so much as teaching people to pay attention to themselves and their surroundings, and learning to behave in an intelligent and safe manner will.
Published on Wednesday, June 7, 2006 as “Capture won’t make us safer.”
It’s typical of people to rush to judgment, to simplify things with labels and pretend that’s it’s all been taken care of by identifying the one responsible, even if it is merely a scapegoat. But the worst thing is the sanctimonious tone taken by authorities and then the media and the public throughout it all. Politics are undoubtedly involved in tragedies that result in part by children’s mistakes, because the culture demands that children be presented as innocents. I’m not sure if the spin put on stories like these is making things maliciously simple by blaming the driver in this case and exonerating the boy, or if the spin is actually making things more complicated by twisting the truth. It is generally said that the simplest explanation is preferred by everyone because it frees their consciences to believe that everything is subsequently all right. But if one conjectures that this simplicity is a false simplicity and then suggests an alternate, more incriminating simplicity in its stead then suddenly the public turns against you.