Osaka school marks 10th anniversary of massacre

Kyodo

An elementary school in Osaka Prefecture on Wednesday mourned the deaths of eight children, who were killed by a knife-wielding intruder on June 8, 2001, marking the 10th anniversary of the tragedy.

The students and teachers at Ikeda Elementary School as well as relatives of the slain gathered in front of a monument to the victims for a silent prayer and to pledge to keep the school safe.

The eight — seven girls in second grade and a boy in first grade — were slain, while 15 others, including two teachers, were wounded in the rampage. Mamoru Takuma was hanged in 2004 for the murders after withdrawing his appeal against the death sentence in the first trial.

In front of some 1,400 in attendance, two sixth-graders said in a statement: “We are supported by someone, and we need to support someone. We keep it in our hearts again at this moment.”

The school principal, Yasushi Sasaki, 49, was a fifth-grade teacher at the school at the time of the incident. He said at the memorial ceremony, “I hope each of you realizes that you have certain missions to fulfill.”

Among the next of kin were Norihiro Hongo, 46, and his wife, Yumiko, 45, who lost their daughter, Yuki, 7.

Yumiko walked 68 steps following Yuki’s 39-meter-long will to live in each of the footsteps.

She now heads a nonprofit organization for those in need of psychological support, including the victims of crimes.

“I’m going to do what I can, as I believe such attitudes will enable me to be closer to my daughter’s will,” she said.

Norihiro has given lectures about his experience, particularly to junior high and high school students, hoping to create a safe environment for education, although he still feels pain in remembering his daughter. She would have been in her final year of high school if she were alive.

The stabbing rampage, meanwhile, set the stage for a new law, under which those who commit serious crimes, including murder, but are not imprisoned due to mental incompetence are forced to undergo treatment.

Takuma declined to offer an apology to the victims until his execution, but told his lawyer once that he “was moved” when he faced in court the parents of his victims, according to the lawyer, Shigeki Todani.

“He must have been remorseful of his crime at that time,” Todani said.