The Land of the Bloody Sun

June 24, 2008

Japan’s status as a modern industrialised nation has, pretty much, not affected their crime rate over the past years (though criminologists do readily attribute the conditions of modernisation and industrialisation to growing crime rates).

This is in spite of the high profile murders which have shocked the nation over the past decade or so, such as:

  • Aum Shinrikyo or Aleph, a new Japanese religious movement responsible for the deadly sarin gas attacks in the Tokyo subways in 1995, as well as several police shootings and stabbings within the same year.
  • the murder of a 11-year-old boy (strangled and decapitated) and a 10-year-old girl (bludgeoned to death) by a then-14-year-old schoolboy in 1997, who has since been released on parole
  • the hijack of a Japanese bus by a 17-year-old user of online forum 2channel in 2000, with one passenger being stabbed to death.
  • the Sasebo slashing, the murder of a 12-year-old schoolgirl by her 11-year-old classmate in an elementary school in 2004, which involved the slitting of the victim’s throat and arms with a box cutter
  • the murders by Yukio Yamaji, who killed his own mother in 2000. Upon being released on parole, he then raped a 27-year-old woman and her sister prior to murdering them in 2005

However, violence in Japan seems to have taken an unprecedented turn for the worse, going by the numerous reports on the stabbing sprees which have surfaced over the past month alone.

It seems that the Internet has become the go-to channel for potential killers to make their intentions and death threats known on forums, prior to the stabbings themselves. The motive remains unclear, as to whether the persecuters were merely gunning (no pun intended) for their own thirty seconds of fame prior to the killings, or whether they were attempting to channel some character from the media in their murder attempts.

Following the arrest of Mr Kato, who embarked on a knifing rampage on June 8, taking the lives of seven people and wounding 10 others in the process, the nation has been on an alert for copycat crimes.

And rightfully so, it seems, with an unparalleled number of people posting threatening messages online.

Authorities have arrested a 19-year-old male who posted an Internet threat to go on a Disneyland stabbing spree, while they have also apprehended a 38-year-old jobless woman for attacking 3 women with a knife at a train station on Sunday.

It remains to be seen how many followers of Kato are there, as well as the motive behind the murders. Could the killers be followers of a massive cult, a la Aum Shinrikyo? Or could the pressures of living in a highly post-modernised state have gotten to their heads, resulting in depression? Or, could this be attributed to the influences of the mass media, what with the heightened number of violent movies and games in the market today?

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