Blunting much sympathy for murdered former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been the tragic life of his alleged killer, Tetsuya Yamagami. Who is the victim in this drama, and who the criminal? The lines blur. Shukan Josei (Jan 17-24) reports on the “Yamagami Girls” – young women whose hearts have gone out to the suspect.
They congregate online – raising funds for his defense, signing petitions for a light sentence, conveying sympathy, expressing admiration, declaring love. To Shukan Josei’s requests for interviews, they return a polite negative. They don’t seek publicity. What they have to say they say where self-expression counts – online.
Abe met his death at a political rally in Nara last July. In mid-speech he was shot from behind at close range. Yamagami, arrested at the scene, was found in possession of a homemade firearm.
Tragedy was Yamagami’s lot from birth. He was four when his father committed suicide. His elder brother, still a child, lost an eye to cancer. His mother, overwhelmed, joined the Unification Church, a salvationist, messianic fringe cult with vast business interests. She turned the family property into a religious offering. Donation followed donation. Poverty loomed. The donations went on. Yamagami, a promising student, had no money for college. He joined the Maritime Self-Defense Force instead.
In 2005, aged 25, he attempted suicide. The life insurance money would help his family, he thought. The attempt miscarried. He was condemned to life. Discharged from the SDF, he drifted from job to job. In 2013 his brother killed himself.
Such is the remote background of the Abe assassination. Yamagami figures as a deeply troubled man pursuing revenge against the dubious religious organization he blamed for his family’s ruin. What had the former prime minister to do with that? Nothing, it seemed at first. Yamagami’s allegations of illicit connections seemed baseless. They weren’t. New facts came to light, forcing Abe’s governing Liberal-Democratic Party to launch an internal investigation. It showed nearly half of LDP lawmakers had ties to the church – receiving donations and electoral support from it, in return, possibly, for some measure of government protection.
New party rules were implemented, stressing the Constitutional separation of church and state. New legislation was passed limiting private donations to religious groups, regulating fundraising based on religious hopes and fears, and compensating victims of past abuses. An education ministry investigation into Church activities is ongoing.
Yamagami sparked a mini-revolution. It took murder to bring corruption to light. That doesn’t justify murder, but it does perhaps help us understand the Yamagami girls. Crime is crime and murder is murder, yet beyond this crime lies desperation, suffering and courage.
These are romantic qualities. Their appeal, psychiatrist Tamami Katada tells Shukan Josei, is to women whose lives are bare of such drama and drab in comparison; and equally, to those who share Yamagami’s plight, more or less. The first group, says Katada, is drawn by Yamagami’s “idol” stature; the second by grim personal identification with him. They too – as all too many in this time of dizzying though partial progress – know poverty and deprivation. They too, some of them, burn with the urge to do something drastic. Fortunately for society as a whole, the gulf separating urge from act is wide. The former is common, the latter rare.© Japan Today