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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:

母親を殺す息子に、
息子を捨てる父親。
嫌なニュースが立て続け。

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

Another blogger dawnpurple writes:

親殺し、子殺し、育児放棄など昔からあったといいますが、明らかに性質が変わっているといわざるを得ません。
いつもこの結論でどうしようもないのですが、いったい日本人はどうなってしまったのでしょうか。いや、世界か?

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.

人の心の奥底には、忘れることのない道徳心、慈しみの心を備えているはずだと、信じていきたい。
悲しいニュースではありましたが、改めて「命」というものを自分の中で再確認する機会となったのでした。

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:

報道によれば母親殺害事件においては、被害者の母親は子供達に多くの愛情を注いでいたようであるし、赤ちゃんポストに預けられた3歳児は名前を名乗る事が出来るという。
ましてや赤ちゃんポストには、父親に連れられ預けられたという。
何という世の中かと思うと同時に、親の愛について考えさせられた。

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.

1つに、親の愛がなぜ子供に伝わらないのか?
もう1つが、親の愛をなぜ放棄するのか?

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

私も現在、子育ての真っ最中。
3人の子供は難しい盛りにある。
日頃から思っている事だが、親の愛の表現も千差万別、受け取る子供の感受性も千差万別であり、これが愛情表現という正解は無く、よって親子間による手探りの繰り返しこそが、親子の愛の深まりにつながるのかなぁと思っている。
勿論これは私の考えであり、もっと素晴らしい形で親子間の愛を深めておられる方も多いと思う。

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:

メディアは、こういった事例をセンセーショナルに取り上げて
「時代がおかしくなった」「若い世代はキレるから怖い」と
いたずらに不安を煽ろうとはしていないだろうか。

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:

他の方も指摘されていますが、ここに書かせてください。本日の夕刊で、国民投票法ごり押し、沖縄復帰35周年を大きく扱った全国紙、あるいは、在京キー局のニュースがありましたか?
 ないですね?

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?

 本日のトップは、高校生が母親殺害か、赤ちゃんポストに3歳児、ですね。
 つまり、これらの事件は、国民投票法を隠すために使われていたのです。
 実際、赤ちゃんポストは、10日に分かっていたのです。それが、なぜ本日、これだけ大きく報じられたのでしょうか?

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?

 私は、高校生の母親殺害も、少し前の事件で、本日、国民投票法を隠すためにリークされたと思っています。日本の警察には、赤子の手をひねるようなものです。

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.

[…]

 さらに、沖縄で、辺野古の基地に反対する市民を弾圧するために、自衛隊が「派兵」されています。いつ、国民に、自衛隊が銃口を向けるか、わかりません。
 明日の朝は、北朝鮮が核ミサイルを撃ったとか言うニュースが流れても、私は驚きません。
 日本の言論統制は、ここまで進んでいる…のではなく、もともとそうなのです。

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:

なんとなく
泣きそう。。
そんな気分。。。

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

特に意味はない。
でも涙が出そう。
切ないです。

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

最近のニュースもそんなんばっかり。
エキスポランドの事故死
神戸の妊婦殺害
福島の母親殺害
赤ちゃんポストに3歳児
負の連鎖
が止まらない。

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.

誰か止めてくれ。
ニュースを見る度に鬱になる。
悲しい。。

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

何かが蔓延している気がする
社会の流れとかじゃない。。
何かに侵されてる。
そんな気がする

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.

暗いニュースばっかり。。
マスコミも無駄に食いつく。
無意味な報道合戦

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

最近少し疲れました。。

Recently, I've gotten a little tired.

6 comments

  • […] 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.

    Adam:
    “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.

  • […] Where is Japan Heading?   […]

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