Beheadings, Shoot-outs and Baby Dumping: Where is Japan heading?

News stories covered this week by the mainstream news media in Japan have shaken Japanese society, with many wondering where their country is heading and what has happened to the nation's youth. Most sensational among these stories is the shocking tale of a high-school boy who killed and beheaded his mother, then carried the head with him to an Internet cafe before turning himself over to the police. (It is noteworthy that this is not the first time that this type of crime has occurred in Japan.) Police reported that after admitting to the crime, the boy said: “I want terrorism and war to disappear from the world,” and explained that: “It doesn't matter who I choose to kill.”

Next up is the story of a 24-hour standoff involving a former yakuza gangster, who hid in his suburban home holding his former wife as hostage. The standoff finally ended, but not before the man killed one police officer, injured another, and also injured his own son and daughter.

Add to these two the story of the first Japanese “Akachan Post” (Baby Post, also referred to as a “Stork's Cradle”), a kind of “baby hatch” measuring 50 centimetres by 60 centimetres, opening onto a small heated compartment. Parents who, for whatever reason, cannot take care of their children can drop off their young babies in this hatch; hospital personnel are alerted when the door is opened, and immediately come to receive the baby.

Baby Hatch

Baby post diagram

The idea of introducing a “Baby Post” was sparked by the rise in cases of child abandonment in Japan. One such case, also in the spotlight this week, involved a couple whose baby died in the luggage compartment of their motorbike as they gambled their money away at a local pachinko parlour, the baby's body later found dumped in the gutter.

Although the Baby Post may help avoid horrific situations such as these, the system is not without its detractors. On its first day of operation, a man apparently misunderstood the intended age range of the “Stork's Cradle” and dropped off his 3-year-old son into the baby hatch, telling him that they were just playing hide-and-go-seek. The boy apparently could talk and was able to identify himself by name.

What do Japanese people think about all these stories? Many expressed great distress about what is happening to Japanese society. Blogger choumi summarizes the situation well in the first few lines of her entry on the topic:


From a son who killed his mother,
to a father who abandoned his son.
The series of hideous news continues.

Another blogger dawnpurple writes:


Parenticide, infanticide, child neglect, people say these have been around for a long time, but no one can deny that their nature has clearly changed.
As always, this leaves us with no answer, but where on Earth is Japan heading? Or is it this whole world?

In a post called “What is this we call life?“, blogger bar_moonCot writes:

何故、なんで命の奪い合いをしなければならないんだ? あんた方にとって、命とは一体どういうものなのだ!?
人間、所詮は「人の形をした獣」だということか?  否、俺はそうではないと信じたい。

Why do we have to scramble for our lives? For all of you, what on Earth is this thing we call life!?
Are human beings, after all, just “beasts in the shape of people”? No, I want to believe that I am not like that.


In the innermost depths of our hearts, I want to believe that we are all furnished with a moral fibre and a sense of caring, these things that cannot be forgotten.
This is all very sad news, but it is also an opportunity to reaffirm yet again for myself what the word “life” really means.

Others, such as Prefectural Assembly Member Kanda Masakuni, related the recent events to their own lives:


According to news reports, in the matricide murder incident, the mother, who was the victim, had poured a lot of love and affection on her child, and in the case of the child who was deposited in the Akachan Post, the 3-year-old was able to give his name.
In the case of Akachan Post, the father brought his child and dropped him off.
As I thought about what kind of world this is, I also had to ask myself questions about parental love.


One question is: why was the parents’ love not transmitted to the child?
Another question is: why was the parents’ love cast aside?


I also am currently right in the middle of raising a child.
Having 3 children poses difficult challenges.
This is something that I think about every day, but there is a great variety in the way parents express their love, and there is also a great variety in the receptiveness of children who receive this love. There is no correct answer to the question of how to express one's feelings of love, but I feel that, perhaps, repeated trial and error on both sides of this relationship is connected to the deepening of love between parents and their children.
Of course these are just my thoughts, I'm sure that there are many other people with much better ways to deepen the love between parent and child.

There was another group of bloggers who took a different position, arguing that the mainstream media had sensationalized these stories at the expense of other issues, which received much less (or no) attention. Blogger mk-labo expresses this sentiment:


It seems that the media has sensationalized these incidents, unnecessarily fomenting fears by saying: “We are in a messed up age”, “The young generation blows up easily, and this is scary”.

Other bloggers made this argument more explicitly. Blogger wayakucha argues that the sensational stories were used to cover up or ignore other more important issues, such as the passage of the new national referendum law and the protests at Henoko Bay:


Other people have pointed this out as well, but let me write about it here. Are there any evening newspapers or national newspapers, or key Tokyo-based broadcasting stations, which covered to any considerable extent the forcing through of the National Referendum Law [for amendment of the Constitution], or the 35th anniversary of Okinawa's reversion to Japanese sovereignty?
There aren't, are there?


Top in Japan were the stories of the high-school student who killed his mother, and the story about the 3-year-old who was left in the Akachan Post.
In other words, these incidents were used to hide the story of the National Referendum Law.
Actually, the Akachan Post story was already known on the 10th. So then, why was only this story so extensively covered in Japan?


I also believe that the story of the high-school student who killed his mother, in an earlier incident, was leaked in order to cover up the story of the [passage of the] National Referendum Law. The Japanese police twisted the kids hands, or something like that.



Moreover, in Okinawa, to put pressure on the citizens opposed to construction of the military base at Henoko Bay, the Japanese Self-Defense Forces (SDF) is being “deployed”. You never know when the SDF will point their guns at the citizens.
Even if, tomorrow morning, news comes out that North Korea has fired a nuclear missile, I would not be surprised.
Japan's suppression of speech has advanced this far… no, actually it's been like this from the beginning.

Finally, other bloggers were more introspective. Blogger kiryuyrik's post on the topic, simply titled “Saikin…” (Recently…), expresses dismay and great sadness:


For some reason or other,
I feel like crying…
It's that kind of feeling…


No special reason.
But it feels like the tears will come.
It is so painful.


The news recently is all like this.
The accident in ExpoLand
The murder of the pregnant mother in Kobe
Matricide in Fukushima
The 3-year-old left in Akachan Post
This progression of negative stories
is not stopping.


Somebody make it stop.
When I watch the news, I become depressed.
It's so sad…


I have the feeling that something is spreading
It is not just a social trend.
Something else is plaguing us.
I have that kind of feeling.


Nothing but dark news…
The mass media is taking the bait, all for nothing.
A meaningless media circus


Recently, I've gotten a little tired.


  • […] The first 4 paragraphs of this post at GV had me shocked. […]

  • It’s very scary, i can never forget reading about 8 years old kids committing suicide.

  • Adam

    You have to become desensitized to the evil in this world. otherwise youll never make it out alive.

    my philosophy, sleep with evil and you will never be surprised by its actions. remain innocent and all you get is a big disappointment in life.

    there is good in this world, otherwise evil would not exist in the first place. be happy it wasnt you.

  • […] What with all the news last week of beheadings, shoot-outs and baby dumping — and subsequent soul-searching on the part of Japanese bloggers, at a loss for what to make of the nation’s younger generation — I felt that it would be appropriate this week to highlight a slightly more uplifting story, by shifting the spotlight to a thoughtful response from an unusually self-reflective corner of the Japanese blogosphere. […]

  • Yazan and Adam: thanks for your comments.

    “be happy it wasnt you”. I don’t agree with this mentality. I believe very strongly that what affects one part of society affects everyone else, if only indirectly.

    I personally do not think that becoming “desensitized” is a solution to these or any other problems facing Japanese society, or any other society for that matter. In fact, quite honestly, I think this is about the worst thing people can do.

    Fundamentally, we (the human race) are all in this together — we’ll either help each other out and somehow make it through collectively, or all go down as selfish individuals, scrambling to “make it out alive”.

    There’s a great motto I read somewhere a long while ago that goes:

    “Whoever dies with the most toys, wins.”

    Honestly, with that kind of thinking, we will all, every last one of us, inevitably, eventually, lose.

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