Publisher behind Kobe child killer’s autobiography defends decision to go to print


Staff Writer

Brushing aside mounting criticism, a Tokyo publisher has defended its decision to release a controversial autobiography penned by a former teenage serial killer, billing it as helpful to elucidate — and even deter — heinous juvenile crimes in society.

Since the release of the autobiography last week, Ota Publishing Co. has faced a “massive” backlash from the public, the company admitted in a statement released Wednesday.

Many critics said the book was an insensitive affront to efforts by the bereaved families to move on from the serial murders committed by the author in Kobe in 1997, according to the publisher.

“Prior to publication, we discussed numerous times the possibility that the book may disturb families of the victims who might be learning to put the ordeal behind them,” the company wrote.

“Having said that, we believe exposing what is on the author’s mind after all these years will greatly benefit society by allowing it to better understand the severity of some juvenile crimes.”

The book, titled “Zekka” — a coined term that could be translated as “Desperate Song” — revisits in grisly detail the high-profile murders perpetrated by Seito Sakakibara, a pseudonym used by the killer.

In a series of crimes that eventually led to the stiffening of juvenile crime laws, Sakakibara, then 14, killed two schoolchildren — one of whom he decapitated, placing his head at the gate of a local junior high school — and injured three others.

Immediately after the book’s release, Mamoru Hase, the father of the beheaded pupil, issued a statement demanding the book be pulled from shelves and calling it a sign Sakakibara remains unrepentant.

In the book, Sakakibara, who is now 32 and whose real name has not been revealed, confessed to having derived perverse sexual pleasure from dissecting animals, and ultimately, killing human beings as a teenager.

Despite his deviant behavior, publisher Ota insists that the autobiography tells the story of an “ordinary schoolboy” who became a “psychopathic criminal only by mistake” after unsuccessfully coping with growing sexual urges and other inner turmoil typically confronted by adolescents.

“The crimes he committed were unprecedentedly cruel and monstrous, but underlying them all are problems that hold true of society in general,” the company said.

“In order to prevent a recurrence, we believe society has to review what happened, no matter how ugly it is.”

For Sakakibara’s part, he said in the book’s afterword dedicated to relatives and families of his victims that facing up to his own past and writing about it is the only way to salvage himself.

“Beside writing this book, I couldn’t find any other way to live the rest of my life,” he wrote.

“I can only hope you will find even a single sentence in this book that will help you understand why (I committed the crimes).”