June 8th has become a day of infamy in modern Japan, at least to those who remember their recent history. It was three years ago today that a man drove a truck into a heavily congested pedestrian area of Akihabara and then started stabbing people. The slow wheels of justice sentenced him to death only three months ago, so he’ll be with us for a few years more.
But today is also the day, the ten-year anniversary in fact, of what I consider the scariest spree killing imaginable. On June 8th, 2001, a deeply disturbed man (off his meds) entered an elementary school in Ikeda, Osaka and attacked the children with a knife. He gave no clear motive, only expressing a desire to be put to death (his wish was granted in 2004).
At the time of the murders, I was prepping for my first trip to Japan, so I was watching Japanese language news on cable a lot. While the attack certainly drew the attention of the US media, it (understandably) dominated the Japanese news cycle for at least a week. It didn’t make me rethink my plans at all, but it certainly shook my image of Japan as a crime-free nation.
What makes the school killings all the more frightening is that Mako and I have been looking into buying a house in the area, and our number one choice is right down the street from the elementary school where the attack took place. If we end up moving, our son would at the very least walk past it everyday and he might even attend (the school is public, but it requires an entrance exam).
So whether you live in Japan or not, take a moment out of your day today and honor the victims of these crimes with silence. And don’t forget about the people of Tohoku. Three months later and thousands of them are still essentially homeless. 黙祷してお願いいたします。