Experts ponder whether Kato felt disenfranchised from society

by Minoru Matsutani and Akemi Nakamura

The deadly stabbing rampage Sunday in Tokyo’s Akihabara district stunned the nation, but experts said the carnage was just another example of a young man unhappy with his lot in society.

Tomohiro Kato, a 25-year-old temporary worker at an auto parts factory in Shizuoka Prefecture, was arrested at the scene for allegedly stabbing seven people to death after running into a crowd of pedestrians with a rented truck.

This is the third major random killing or attack resulting in injury apparently perpetrated by a young man this year, following one in Shinagawa Ward, Tokyo, in January and another in Ibaraki Prefecture in March.

Police quoted Kato as saying he was “tired of the world” and wanted to kill indiscriminately.

Although his motive remains unclear, Akira Sakuta, a visiting criminology professor at Seigakuin University in Ageo, Saitama Prefecture, speculated Monday that Kato is a sociopath who blames society for his unstable life as a temporary worker.

An Aomori native, Kato reportedly was a good student in junior high school and advanced to a highly competitive high school in Aomori Prefecture. But as of the weekend he was a temporary worker living in a condominium provided by his temp agency.

“Something must have gone wrong after graduating from high school, and he came to find the real world tough going,” Sakuta said. “He probably was suicidal. Such aggression can sometimes be targeted at others.

“People must have paid attention to him when he was young, and he must have thought he could still gain attention by (doing something evil).”

Sakuta said many young people are selfish and immature, and such violence is a manifestation of this.

“When things do not go as well as they hoped, they blame the people around them,” he said, noting it could be that the parents of violent people failed to instill in them a sense of self-control.

Echoing Sakuta’s view, Masafumi Usui, a psychology professor at Niigata Seiryo University, said Kato may have been dissatisfied with his lot and simultaneously jealous of other young people who hold better jobs and enjoy life.

“Some young people these days don’t attempt to achieve their goals, and think taking low-paying jobs is ridiculous,” Usui said. “They are not satisfied with ordinary jobs. They want to become someone special.”

People who do not feel they were loved by their parents, friends or teachers may also lash out violently, he said.

“It’s a side effect of a wealthy society,” in which parents can easily spoil their children, Usui said. “If they don’t feel loved, they become anxious” about themselves.

The recent widening economic gap in society may also be a factor behind the stabbing sprees blamed on young people in recent years, said Susumu Oda, a psychiatrist at Tezukayamagakuin University in Osaka Prefecture.

“Young people may feel they are at a dead end, with no way out,” he said.

Kato may also have felt isolated living in a Shizuoka Prefecture condo, Oda said.

Random acts of murder may be a way for such a person to feel like a participant in society and achieve personal fulfillment, according to Oda.

There is also speculation about why Kato chose Akihabara. It is Japan’s electronics mecca and the main venue for “otaku” animation geeks.

Sakuta said Kato may have thought otaku are insignificant members of society, while Oda said he might have targeted the district because he may be a heavy Internet user.