'The clicking sound of my cell phone echoes emptily in my room. . . . If only I had a girlfriend, I wouldn't have to live so miserably.'

The thousands of messages posted online by Tomohiro Kato reveal the loneliness that haunted him in the days before he instigated the deadly attacks in Tokyo's Akihabara district on June 8. Although experts initially pointed to video games and low-wage jobs as being key factors behind his crime, details surrounding the incident suggest a bigger issue was at play. The incident, in many ways, highlights the extent to which the notion of "seken" (the society, the people one deals with) continues to govern peoples' lives in Japan.

Kato's workplace woes are well-documented: A top-class student in elementary school and junior high, he had dreams of designing cars for Toyota, but ended up in a temporary job checking the paint-work on vehicles at a Toyota subsidiary in Susono, Shizuoka Prefecture. Earning around ¥220,000 a month — significantly less than the ¥350,000 salary of regular employees — and struggling with debt, he was anxious about his employers' plans to lay off most of its temporary staff in June.