National / Crime & Legal

Former top Japan farm ministry official admits to murdering reclusive son in first day of trial

Kyodo

A former top bureaucrat at the farm ministry admitted Wednesday to killing his socially reclusive son, during the first day of his high-profile trial in Tokyo.

Hideaki Kumazawa, 76, who once served as vice minister at the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, is on trial for stabbing his 44-year-old son, Eiichiro, in the neck multiple times at around 3:15 p.m. on June 1, causing his death from massive blood loss, according to the indictment.

Prosecutors said the defendant feared for his own safety before deciding to kill his son, who had displayed violent behavior in the family home ever since he was bullied at a famous private junior high school.

After Eiichiro graduated from the school, he moved into a home of his own in the Mejiro area of Tokyo. He had moved back into his parents’ home in the capital’s Nerima Ward a week before the incident, prosecutors said.

A day after returning to his parents’ home, Eiichiro assaulted his father for bringing up the issue of some garbage left at the Mejiro residence. After the incident, Kumazawa and his wife remained exclusively on the second floor of their home, where they had moved.

The defendant decided to kill his son and left a note saying, “I think there is no other way,” prosecutors said. After the incident, he called police to report the stabbing.

The defense team said Wednesday that Eiichiro had previously been diagnosed with schizophrenia and Asperger’s syndrome, adding that the defendant had “supported and cared for his eldest son desperately.”

“He was suddenly compelled to kill him, thinking he would be murdered otherwise,” his lawyer said.

At the time of his arrest, the defendant explained that his actions were prompted by a fear his son might harm children in an incident similar to a mass stabbing that occurred in Kawasaki a few days earlier, investigative sources said.

But at trial neither prosecutors nor the defense team mentioned the knife attack, carried out on a group of elementary school children and parents, which left two dead and injured more than a dozen others west of Tokyo. That attack was allegedly carried out by a 51-year-old recluse who lived with his elderly uncle and aunt.

At the end of the hearing at the Tokyo District Court, prosecutors called on the group of citizen judges to assess the case based on the evidence presented during the trial.

Kumazawa joined the forerunner to the farm ministry in 1967, and became vice minister in 2001. He stepped down the following year amid criticism over the ministry’s handling of a mad cow disease outbreak.

He went on to serve as Japan’s ambassador to the Czech Republic from 2005 to 2008.

The case involving the killing of his son has drawn significant public attention due to the nation’s large number of aging social recluses known as hikikomori. The government estimates there to be 613,000 across the country who are age 40 to 64.

The so-called “80-50 problem,” in which parents in their 80s and children in their 50s struggle with financial burdens, has emerged as a growing social issue of late.

Experts on the hikikomori phenomenon regularly call on family members to seek help from specialized institutions or support groups, as many parents tend to blame themselves or choose to hide their problems due to concerns about associated social stigma.

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