An ill-fated Aichi couple's last ride to Chiba


Last June, Shukan Bunshun reported on an exceedingly uncommon event: the suicide in Hachioji City of a 15-year-old high school student, whose weapon of choice was a Smith & Wesson revolver.

The boy, who had been recently diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease had been truant from school for about a week. He was believed to have acquired the weapon from his deceased father, who had been employed overseas by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. A police source surmised the handgun, a .38 caliber Smith & Wesson M60, had been smuggled into Japan using a diplomatic pouch, which is exempt from customs inspection.

Some three months and two weeks later, another handgun incident was to occur, this time described as a shinju (love suicide).

According to Shukan Bunshun (Oct 8), on the evening of Sept 23, shots rang out from a white Toyota AQUA hatchback that had halted by a Sotobo Line rail crossing in the seaside town of Kujukurihama in Chiba Prefecture. A nearby resident approached the vehicle, calling out, "Hey, are you okay?" The man in the vehicle, Shinju Umeda, age 41, did not respond, as he had expired from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.

Seven kilometers away on a country road in Mobara City, Umeda's common-law wife, 61-year-old Masae Kim, was found shot to death.

"She died of shock from gunshots to the head and neck," a reporter from the local news desk tells the magazine. "A revolver was found inside Umeda's car."

Originally from Miyazaki, Umeda moved to Aichi as a child and after finishing middle school, began running with motorcycle and hot-rod gangs, where he earned a reputation as a troublemaker.

"He was formerly a member of a yakuza gang, and his body was almost completely covered with tattoos," said a police source.

Some 20 years ago, Umeda broke away from his wife and young son. He found work in the construction trades, but trouble continued to follow him.

"He had a hair-trigger temper, and whether on or off the job, once he blew up, there was no stopping him," said an unnamed acquaintance. "He was arrested any number of times on charges of causing personal injury, and served a stint in Tokyo's Fuchu Prison."

Then 12 years ago Umeda met Masae.

"After work he could go to drink at the snack bar where she was mama," said the acquaintance. "He had something of an Oedipus complex, and was bewitched by the attractive older woman, who was in the habit of wearing tinted contact lenses."

About 10 years ago they began cohabiting, and most of the time the relationship was idyllic, although Umehara, when in a bad mood, would sometimes snap at her, calling her an "old bag," and becoming physically abusive. Her patience exhausted, she complained to local police and the two underwent counseling. In any event Masae disregarded pleas from her family to break off the relationship.

After losing his house to a fire in January and his mother to illness, Umehara fell into a deep funk. On June 25, he was arrested for use of stimulant drugs.

"He became uncontrollable when taken to a hospital, which ordered a urinalysis. When he tested positive for drugs, the police were called in," said the aforementioned reporter. "He was out of jail, but awaiting incarceration after the September holidays."

Apparently Umehara appealed to Kim, his common-law wife, to "die together with him." He had made a similar request to his 20-year-old son after driving from Aichi some 400 kilometers to Chiba, perhaps using the pretext of wanting to visit Tokyo Disneyland.

"I suppose he just drove around looking for a place to die," said the acquaintance.

"For the two, the 'Silver Week' journey came to the worse kind of end," the magazine commented.

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News involving guns tends to attract media attention. The three fatalities mentioned here may or may not push the 2020 body count in Japan to two digits, which would go against the trend over the past years of fewer than 10 homicides from firearms per year. It is said handguns are available via the "deep web" for between 800,000 to 1 million yen. That's a lot to spend to kill yourself. Umehara probably obtained his revolver from his old yakuza contacts.

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A suggestion that Masae Kim chose to die, whereas this is not at all likely, nor is there any evidence to show it.

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Maria@I agree. The magazine should probably not have used "shinju" in the headline, although the word is vague in its usage. A related term is "michizure," where the person committing suicide kills an unwilling companion (sometimes his or her own child) to "accompany" him/her in death. Interestingly, the term "shinju" was banned by authorities during the Edo period and does not appear in the criminal code, where the accepted term is "aitai-jini."

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Is that real or more kind of a still to be produced movie plot? lol

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"She died of shock from gunshots to the head and neck," . . .

". . . died of shock . . . " Bad translation or . . . ?

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"She died of shock from gunshots to the head and neck," . . .

". . . died of shock . . . " Bad translation or . . . ?

Yes, Shock. Shock is a state in which vital body functions begin to shutdown. Usually as result of blood loss or trauma to the nervous system (explosion, car crash etc).

Contrary to Hollywood, a gunshot to the head, especially a low caliber pistol shot, won’t kill instantly all the time. A quick internet search will provide 100s of photos of war veterans or victims of attack who literally had half their head blown off, but lived to tell.

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When you choose to stay with an abusive ne'er-do-well like this guy, you have a stronger chance of having an ill-fated life.

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Japan could use better gun control, and perhaps better community services for parents and youth.

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