JAPAN

Seven massacred in Tokyo - are the Japanese prone to ultra-violence?

3 min

Japan saw the ghastly murder of seven people yesterday when a man drove his two-tonne-lorry into crossing pedestrians and then went on a stabbing spree in Akihabara, Tokyo. Our Observer in the country questions whether the Japanese are prone to such gruesome massacres, and why.

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Japan saw the ghastly murder of seven people yesterday when a man drove his two-tonne-lorry into crossing pedestrians and then went on a stabbing spree in Akihabara, Tokyo. Our Observer in the country questions whether the Japanese are prone to such gruesome massacres, and why.

The 25-year-old factory worker, Tomohiro Kato, told police, that he was "tired of life" according to Japanese press. He was pegged as a video-game and comic book addict, and a visitor to restaurants where the waitresses dress up as French maids. He apparently posted messages on internet forums about the imminent "disaster in Akihabara", saying that he would crash his vehicle into people and get out a knife. Of the 17 people he stabbed or hit, seven died.

French maids are all the fashion in Tokyo

Typical dress for a waitress in the Tokyo district of Akihabara, where the trend of dressing up as a French maid began. Photo: "mujitra" on Flickr.

"There’s just no outlook on mental health issues here"

Lee Chapman is a British expat who's been living in Japan for ten years:

There have been quite a few grizzly murders recently but they're still rare compared with those in the UK or the US. I think the problem is that there's just no outlook on mental health issues here. If you're stressed there's nobody to talk to. It's very much a taboo - the normal thing to do is to push it to one side and hope it goes away. If you get to the point of breakdown then you're just given loads of drugs. Complaining is seen as a sign of weakness - keeping it inside is a pride thing. It's the same with suicide - the number has now topped 30,000 for the last 10 years, an extraordinarily high number for a wealthy country like Japan.

As for this guy, well he doesn't seem unordinary. Visiting restaurants where the waitresses dress up as French maids is mainstream and quite innocent here. I don't think the Japanese will make the link between this event and social problems. He'll just be seen as a lunatic. And then it's a case of carrying on until the next one happens. Things here don't change very quickly. And nobody chooses to see the real problem."

Footage of Kato's arrest, broadcast on Japanese television.

 

The assailant was cornered and arrested by police minutes into his attack. Photo from Akibanana.com.

 

The scene after the massacre. Photo: Ryan MacLean on Flickr.