Early in the morning of Dec 11, 2009, 25-year-old Shinsuke Harada killed himself.
The venue he chose was one he knew well from his university days – a platform at Waseda subway station. Not long before, he had had a dreadful misadventure. At JR Shinjuku Station, he’d been jumped by two male university students whose female companion – all three had been drinking – accused him of groping her. They beat him and dragged him to a police station, where police interrogated him throughout the night.
Harada’s mother, so suddenly bereft of her only son, continues to seek eye witnesses at Shinjuku Station.
“For nearly an hour after the police released him early on the 11th,” says Naomi Harada, 53, “my son wandered around central Tokyo. He is extremely nearsighted and wasn’t wearing his contact lenses, so he wouldn’t have been able to see much. He was studying English, and generally carried an IC recorder about with him. It was switched on. My son’s voice is on it, muttering something through tears. I can’t make out what he’s saying.”
April 30 would have been Shinsuke’s 26th birthday. On that day at Shinjuku Station, Naomi was interviewed by the newspaper Yukan Fuji. Almost every day, Naomi is at the station, handing out flyers in the hope of locating someone who saw what happened that December night. She shouts herself hoarse to get attention, but two hours go by and only four or five people have bothered to take a flyer.
After graduating from Waseda University’s business faculty in 2008, Shinsuke took a job with JAXA, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. After a year and a half there, he left in October 2009 to join the staff of a private Tokyo university.
By Dec 10, when the incident occurred, he was just starting to get used to his new job. It was shortly after 11 p.m. On his way home from an office party, he was changing trains at Shinjuku Station and climbing the stairs to the platform when he brushed against a young woman. She said Shinsuke touched her. Her two companions jumped him and beat him.
“After that,” says his mother, “my son was asked to go voluntarily to the police station. All that is recorded on the IC recorder. My son insisted he was the victim of an unprovoked attack, but the police interrogated him as a suspected 'chikan' (groper). My son said to the officer in charge, ‘Am I supposed to go through the rest of my life as a victim of a trumped-up chikan charge, as they say on the news?’”
He was finally released at 5:45 a.m. the next morning, having signed a written promise to be available for further questioning. Instead of going home, he left his bag in a coin locker at Shinjuku Station and boarded a JR Chuo Line train for Tokyo Station. There he transferred to the Tozai subway line and got off at Waseda Station. When the next train came in, he threw himself in front of it.
A mere 55 minutes had passed since he left the Shinjuku police station. A Tokyo Station surveillance camera image shows Shinsuke looking exhausted and walking unsteadily, apparently disoriented owing to his short sight.
“The police sent my son’s case to prosecutors,” says Naomi, her distress plainly written on her face. “The prosecutors dismissed it, the suspect having died. But my son absolutely did not grope anyone. His university friends, his former JAXA colleagues his colleagues and superiors at the private university, all agree: ‘No way young Harada is a chikan.’
"Meanwhile, the police have said not a word about what they heard from the university students who attacked him. And the prosecution has decided not to make the record of their dismissal of the case public. I’m trying to bring the truth to light so that my son can rest easy.”
Besides spending time at the station seeking an eyewitness, Naomi is struggling for the first time to master the personal computer and learn her way around the Internet. She has set up a blog. She asks anyone with information to contact her on Shinsuke’s cell phone. The blog’s address is http://harada1210.exblog.jp/© Japan Today