A month has passed since Nagasaki Mayor Itcho Ito was assassinated and residents are still puzzled as to why two mayors of a city that promotes peace have been shot in the recent past.

“The shock of seeing the mayor of Nagasaki, a pacifist mayor in the sense that Nagasaki makes peace its mission, shot in public was very great, particularly as his predecessor was also shot,” said a municipal official in his 50s who declined to be named.

Ito was shot twice in the back on the evening of April 17 while campaigning for a fourth term as mayor. He died of blood loss the following morning without regaining consciousness. The shooter, Tetsuya Shiroo, was arrested at the scene. He has already been indicted.

The incident provided a stark reminder of the 1990 shooting of Ito’s predecessor, Hitoshi Motoshima, who was seriously wounded.

The two incidents differ, however, in that Shiroo, 59, is a gangster who claimed to have had trouble with City Hall, whereas Motoshima’s attacker was a rightwing extremist targeting the mayor after Motoshima said that Emperor Hirohito, known posthumously as Showa, bore responsibility for World War II.

Seventeen years ago, people protested after the shooting in defense of freedom of speech and democracy, said Nobuto Hirano, a 60-year-old local peace activist and former teacher.

This time, he said, “Taking action is more difficult as people are puzzled and confused about the mayor being killed over trouble with a gangster.

“But the impact and sense of crisis are the same — that local peace and safety are not guaranteed even though the city is devoted to global peace,” he added.

Also in terms of mobster activity, Nagasaki is no worse than any other part of Japan, said a senior official of the Nagasaki Prefectural Police, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“In fact, Nagasaki is one of the safest places in Japan. I don’t see why such an incident occurred,” the official said.

Former Mayor Motoshima, 85, said in an interview that he has even mulled over the possibility that the “DNA” of Nagasaki has something to do with the series of shootings.

Referring to local history, from the suppression of Christians during the 1603-1867 Edo Period to the fact that after the Meiji Restoration the city was a leading weapons production site up to the atomic bombing in 1945, Motoshima asserted, however, that such speculation makes no sense.

“The incidents involving Mr. Ito and myself are different in nature. They just happened to occur in the same place,” he said. But he stressed in a civic rally Thursday evening, “One thing in common at least is that both kinds of incidents have to be eliminated.”

Motoshima said now that a month has passed, he has begun to share his views about the incidents as the “only survivor” of the two shootings.

“I don’t mean to criticize the deceased, which is not thought good in Japan, but one thing I will say is that he should have met with the individual in order to solve the problem. A gangster is also a resident,” he said.

Citing his own experience, Motoshima said that three out of five people tend to stop making unreasonable demands of the municipal government once they meet with the mayor, while the others are those City Hall should deal with in a serious manner.

In an in-house broadcast midday Thursday, Ito’s successor, Mayor Tomihisa Taue, called on City Hall staff as well as citizens to maintain their “fortitude when dealing with gangsters targeting the government” and to try “not to overlook acts of daily violence in order to realize a peaceful world.”

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