Over 50% of public library networks stock controversial book on 2016 Sagamihara massacre

JIJI, Kyodo

A controversial book about the 2016 massacre at a care home in Kanagawa Prefecture for people with mental disabilities can be found at public libraries in 25 of the country’s 47 prefectures, a Jiji Press survey has found.

The book, criticized by some as containing discriminatory content, includes notes by the accused, Satoshi Uematsu, 29, who has been indicted on charges including the murder of 19 residents of Tsukui Yamayuri En in Sagamihara. Twenty-four other people were injured in the knife attack on July 26, 2016. Residents who survived the assault have been moved to other care facilities.

In his trial, slated to start in January, Uematsu is expected to claim that his act was justified.

The survey, covering prefecture-run libraries nationwide, was conducted in early July, ahead of the third anniversary of the massacre on Friday.

The libraries in the 25 prefectures said that the book met their selection criteria. An official at one of them said the facility holds the book to “guarantee users’ right to know.”

“We found it important to make the book available to users as the incident posed serious challenges to society,” an official at another library said, noting that the book sincerely discusses questions related to the incident.

The book, “Akerareta Pandora no Hako,” which can be translated as “A Pandora’s Box That Was Opened,” was released by Tsukuru Publishing Co. in July last year.

The book references a note written by Uematsu which reads, “Those who cannot communicate due to severe disabilities should be euthanized,” as well as comments from the victims’ side and analyses by psychiatric doctors on the suspect’s mental condition.

Takashi Sasaki, a professor at the University of Shizuoka’s Junior College, criticized the book, saying: “It includes discriminatory content and is harmful from an educational point of view. Offering the book at libraries will help a misguided idea spread in society.”

“Is it worthwhile to publish such a book when there are so many people with disabilities frightened (by the incident)?” Making his comments into a book could vindicate Uematsu, he said.

In June last year, Sasaki submitted a request to the publisher to halt publication of the book along with some 2,000 signatures. After the book was published, he submitted to the education minister in November a written request to ban libraries from keeping the book.

Among libraries in the 22 other prefectures that do not own the book, some said that it was not picked as a candidate during the selection process or that it “does not meet (their) collection policies.” One library cited a lack of any requests from users as a reason to not obtain a copy of the book.

Hiroyuki Shinoda, editor-in-chief of “The Tsukuru,” a monthly magazine produced by the book’s publisher, Tsukuru Publishing, said, “We published the book to have readers think about why the incident occurred, by introducing opinions by people in different positions.”

He added: “We need to carefully consider how we should report the claim by the accused man, who caused the gruesome incident, in light of its impact on society. But if we stop reporting his claim just because it’s inappropriate, we would be unable to shed full light on the incident from various perspectives or prevent the recurrence of similar cases.”

The role of libraries is offering books in demand, not judging whether each book is good or bad, said Yasuhiro Nishigochi, who heads a committee at the Japan Library Association.

“We guarantee readers’ right to know by subjectively deciding whether to (obtain) each book unless its purpose is to create discrimination itself,” he said.

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