National / Crime & Legal

Former top farm official says Kawasaki knife attack prompted him to kill his son

Kyodo

A former top farm ministry bureaucrat arrested Saturday over the murder of his son has told investigators the mass stabbing in Kawasaki last week prompted the killing, investigative sources said Monday.

According to the sources, Hideaki Kumazawa, 76, told investigators that he believed his son could “harm others” after he found out about the stabbing rampage last Tuesday, in which a man said to have become a social recluse allegedly killed two and injured more than a dozen others before taking his own life.

Kumazawa was quoted as saying his 44-year-old son, Eiichiro Kumazawa, “tended to be withdrawn from social life and exhibited violent behavior” toward him and his wife, the sources said.

A note believed to have been left by the elder Kumazawa, who once served as Japan’s ambassador to the Czech Republic, was found at his home suggesting his murderous intent, the sources said. His son was found with a dozen wounds concentrated in his upper body including chest and abdomen.

Kumazawa was sent to prosecutors on Monday on suspicion of murder.

According to the sources, the son had been living elsewhere in Tokyo for more than 10 years until returning to his parent’s home in Nerima Ward, Tokyo, in late May at his own request.

While the son was living apart from his parents, he was seen arguing with neighbors about methods for garbage disposal.

Kumazawa also told investigators that he felt his life was in danger, prompting the police to suspect there was a long-standing feud within the family, the sources said.

The two had a verbal dispute several hours before the incident, when the son became angry over noise from a sports day at a nearby elementary school, the sources said.

Police suspect Kumazawa was worried, after learning of the Kawasaki attack, that his son would harm children at the school. He was also quoted as saying he was worried his neighbors might be in danger from his son.

The incident took place at around 3:30 p.m. Saturday. Kumazawa called the police shortly after and said he had stabbed his son to death. His son was found collapsed on a futon and confirmed dead after being taken to a hospital.There was a large amount of blood on the futon and a kitchen knife was left nearby, police said.

The assailant in the knife attack last Tuesday in Kawasaki is said to have rarely left his home, where he was living with his uncle and aunt, who are in their 80s. The suspect, 51-year-old Ryuichi Iwasaki, took his own life shortly after he attacked a group of Caritas Elementary School students and their parents at around 7:40 a.m. with a 30-centimeter-long knife in each hand.

Kumazawa joined the predecessor of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries in 1967 and became the ministry’s top bureaucrat in 2001.

He stepped down the following year amid criticism of the ministry’s handling of an outbreak of mad cow disease. He served as Japan’s ambassador to the Czech Republic from 2005 to 2008.

Iwasaki and Eiichiro Kumazawa have been both described as social recluses, referred to as hikikomori in Japanese. Kawasaki municipal officials said during a news conference last Thursday that Iwasaki had a tendency to withdraw from social interaction for long periods. Media outlets then scrambled to report this revelation.

Recent media reports suggesting a link between hikikomori and criminal activity are propagating misunderstanding and prejudice against people with the condition, advocates have said.

Morito Ishizaki, editor-in-chief at Hikipos, which delivers messages from people who are or were hikikomori, posted an article saying that “if people begin to have an image that hikikomori are likely to commit indiscriminate killing, that’s definitely a prejudice.”

Ishizaki, who used to be a recluse himself, said that hikikomori “is a term merely to express a person’s state and that there are various types of hikikomori.”

Last Friday, Hikikomori UX Kaigi, a group of former and present hikikomori, issued a statement as well: “If the image of hikikomori continues to be distorted, hikikomori and their families may be driven into a corner and deepen their despair and fears of connecting with the society.”

KHJ, a national federation of groups of families of hikikomori, said on Saturday in a statement that “families with a reclusive member would be scared of public attention and feel an intensified sense of isolation if people blame them for leaving the problem alone.”

Journalist Masaki Ikegami, who has covered the issue of hikikomori for more than 20 years, said that forcibly pushing hikikomori into society can impose unnecessary pressure on them.

“It is rare for hikikomori to commit a crime,” he said. He also called on people with hikikomori family members to contact related groups and gather information.

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