Takayuki Watai lived in a children's institution in Tokyo for most of his school years. Originally from Shizuoka Prefecture, Watai moved to Tokyo with his mother when he was around 5.

"I didn't have a father, but my mother dated a man called 'father.' Then the company he ran (in Shizuoka) went bankrupt, and mom and I came to Tokyo to earn money," recalled Watai, now 35, who said his life with his mother in the capital was not easy.

"I was neglected, I wasn't fed or bathed properly, and I didn't attend school regularly," he said.