The murder of 19 residents of a facility for people with disabilities in Sagamihara, Kanagawa Prefecture, last month instantly became headline news all over the world. The main reasons for the attention were the number of dead and the country where it took place — Japan is famous for its relatively low level of violent crime.

One aspect of the reaction contrasted greatly with that in Japan: Some people overseas described the murders as a "hate crime," a term used only by a few local media and not by any Japanese public official.

The suspect, Satoshi Uematsu, has said his purpose was to eliminate disabled people from the world, and while he characterized his actions as a form of "mercy killing," we tend to think of a hate crime as being carried out against someone because of who that person is, rather than what that person has done. More to the point, the residents were not randomly chosen, as were previous victims of mass murders in Japan. They were targeted because they had disabilities.