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'Yamagami Girls' – women whose hearts go out to Abe's accused killer

11 Comments
By Michael Hoffman

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

©2023 GPlusMedia Inc.

11 Comments
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'Yamagami Girls' – women whose hearts go out to Abe's accused killer

Its not just women. It seems to me that the overwhelming majority of Japanese people feel sympathy for him. Those who support and mourn Abe are the minority.

Who is the victim in this drama, and who the criminal? 

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.

There's your answer right there.

5 ( +21 / -16 )

Good article. Crime is crime and yet the many politicians who have undoubtedly received illegal funds from the unification church, and the church itself with practices that surely border on illegality, remain uncharged and free to continue as they wish, exempted from prosecution due to the corruption that is embedded deep within the Japanese political establishment

11 ( +16 / -5 )

I do not condone murder, but I can understand the justifications in this article. Simply put, no matter how hard Yamagami tried to get everyone publicly aware of the UC's influence in the Japanese government, he would have ended up with lackluster PR at best. With the amount of information we have today, any news could have been drowned out within days and everyone would forget. Attempting to drive around Tokyo with a megaphone would make you look like a lunatic and no one would listen. He probably didn't take Abe's life in front of the public on purpose to get everyone aware of what was going on, but it definitely had a far greater impact which still has the public's attention to this day.

10 ( +15 / -5 )

Unbelievable, this attempt to question who is the killer and who is the victim and saying lines would blur etc. The author and those pseudo-fans of Yamagami are just not clear in their mind. That’s all to it.

-3 ( +7 / -10 )

What a tragic tale. The effect of suicide is very profound on others.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Much less relatable serial killers, that had no redeeming stories nor motives, also had their fans. it would be natural that Yamagami also inspired some misdirected admiration because of the details of his crime. It would not even be strange for people to make biographies or documentaries in the future that put him in a much more positive light.

Unfortunately for him this could also become an argument to sentence him to death and to be executed soon.

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

While his story is a sad and sympathetic one, Yamagami is still a cold-blooded murderer.

And, while Abe was no saint, and was almost certainly corrupt, he was still murdered in cold blood.

He was not to blame for Yamagami's hardships or his mother's mental illness at the hands of the Moonies.

Perhaps, if he was to have gone after UC leaders directly, I'd be more willing to offer some amount of forgiveness. But, as it stands, he deserves the fullest punishment as prescribed by law.

-2 ( +9 / -11 )

Ironically, for the first time in his life, Yamagami is loved.

8 ( +10 / -2 )

Majority of Japan still believes the killer is wrong. The Japanese media is the enemy of Japan and heavily influenced by Koreans who wishes to ruin Japan.

Unfortunately, the media in Japan appears to be the voice of Japan, but instead it is the wish to be the voice.

-7 ( +2 / -9 )

garypen, I agree.

1 ( +5 / -4 )

The Japanese media is showing growing support and understandingfor Yamagami everyday. Of coarse his actions were wrong but his crime was a single action. He is not going to re-offend so I hope he gets a light sentence after the problems his family went through are taken into account. However, due to the high profile of the case he will get life.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

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