NARA — It should have been just another day for Takeshi Yamamoto, 56, when he climbed aboard a Kintetsu train at Koriyama Station at 7:38 a.m. on May 10.
Yamamoto (not his real name) was preoccupied with a tennis tournament starting the next day that he was organizing for his colleagues. In his left hand, he was carrying prizes for the meet in a bag as well as a briefcase.
It turned out that Yamamoto, who worked for the Nara branch of a government-affiliated financial institution, couldn’t attend the meet.
He was arrested after getting off the train for allegedly molesting a 25-year-old female passenger and detained at Nara Nishi Police Station until 11 a.m. the next day.
On May 29, Yamamoto filed a request to restore his honor with the Nara Bar Association, claiming he is innocent and was illegally arrested.
Yamamoto’s lawyer said his client should not have been arrested because it was a matter of his word against the woman’s. In such cases, if it is not a major crime, both parties produce identification and if there is no reason to believe they will flee, it is improper to make an arrest. Yamamoto says he identified himself with his driver’s license when asked by a policeman at the station.
According to Yamamoto, his right hand touched someone in the packed train when it rolled and a child in front of him suddenly leaned onto him. So he raised his hand only to block somebody with his elbow. Although he apologized, there was no reply.
When he got off the train at Yamato-Saidaiji Station at 7:50 a.m., a woman suddenly took his right arm and led him to a station attendant.
He thought she was angry because he might have hit her with his elbow. Instead, he was accused of molestation.
Although he proclaimed his innocence, the station staff called police.
After showing his identification to a policeman, Yamamoto was first taken to a police box near the station, but he was not interrogated there. Instead, he was driven to Nara Nishi Police Station, where he was suddenly handcuffed without explanation, he said.
“I was stunned because no policemen told me about being arrested before entering the police station,” he said.
He was told initially that he would be held for as long as 48 hours. He panicked, he said, and could only think that he would miss the tennis tournament he had been preparing.
A detective told him later that if he confessed, he would be freed by noon the next day, but he may not be released for 10 to 20 days otherwise.
Out of sheer desire to be freed in time for the match, Yamamoto confessed to what he did not do, he claims.
As a result, five newspapers carried the story of his arrest the next morning, four of which reported his full name, town of residence and place of employment. One reported his full address.
After the incident, he was forced to take 10 days off before being transferred to his company’s Osaka branch.
“This was most damaging to me. If they had not carried my name and place of employment, I would not have been transferred,” Yamamoto said.
He takes some consolation in the support his employer has offered.
Yamamoto said he worries he may have been mistaken for someone else with the same name because a detective at the station asked him, “You have many previous convictions, don’t you?” and “You used to live in Kadoma (in Osaka Prefecture), didn’t you?”
Yamamoto said he replied with an honest “no” to both questions, only to be challenged by another detective who insisted “This is wrong, isn’t it?”
Police declined comment on the case. Mitsuru Heijo, vice director of Nara Nishi Police Station, only said that the case will be sent to prosecutors shortly.
Heijo said most suspects are detained longer than Yamamoto was when they continue to deny allegations. The detention is necessary for continued interrogation, he said.
“It was really horrible to be handcuffed suddenly,” Yamamoto said. “I was shocked and forced to confess. Under normal circumstances, I would not give in.”