Take our user survey and make your voice heard.

Japan confronts disability stigma after silence over murder victims' names

By Kwiyeon Ha and Linda Sieg

The requested article has expired, and is no longer available. Any related articles, and user comments are shown below.

© (c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2016.

©2024 GPlusMedia Inc.

Login to comment

It is totally cultural to hide the shame felt by having a family member with cognitive disabilities. Remember here there is little % of people with Christian thoughts, where community think each individual has their rights and dutis and learn compassion without even noticing. I experienced it with physical temporary disability and by knowing some concerned Japanese, including my wife. Each person is unique and deserve minimal understanding, as per old western standards.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Interesting read.

I think though the key element of this story is the nature of the "disability" - that is described in the article as "cognitive disability".

This indicates to me that the situation of the institutions clients - to use less savoury expressions - were mentally disabled, demented, mentally disturbed / sick, schizoprenic, paranoic, crazy and a myriad of other totally prejudicial titles - all rightfully so unacceptable.

But being the nature of some societies, no fresh euphemism eg "intellectualy challenged" can changed the reality of people's fear of those with "cognitive disabilities".

The wheelchair bound, blind (oops - visually impaired), phsically incapacitated and others have earned (been granted) respect from society and are generally better accepted than not so long ago, socially as well as infra-structure wise.

But the "crazies" are in another category - often shunned by society / families as embarrassments - genetic failures. This is not just my opinion. This can be disccused with related health professionals and in most instances the woeful lack of understanding and care for the mentally ill will be readily acknowledged. The professionals, staff, volunteers who work in this world are more often than not caring people, but work in an entirely underfunded, under-pressure, under-supported, under-imaginatively designed environment.

This can be witnessed in all societies to some extent, but it is very apparent here. The institutionalization of mental health care is often the only answer for medicos and families. Out of sight. Out of mind. Out of shame.

Japan has had a recent history of this "shunning" with Hibakusha, Minamata victims, Hansen disease sufferers being just a few.

So it is not difficult to imagine, that some or many of the victims horribly murdered in Sagamihara families, do not want their wider daily worlds to know.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

But I was very impressed with New Zealand, not just for the facilities - ALL the buses accommodated wheelchairs, but you could often see handicapped people working in shops and offices. They are part of the community.

Actually, New Zealand officially discriminates against disabled persons. Entire families are denied residency simply because of an autistic child or one of them is in a wheelchair.


So this is clearly an issue that is not limited to Japan.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

"“In Japan, disabled people are discriminated against so the families wanted to hide them,”

No, the families are ashamed of them and so want to hide them. Big difference. And if that's not true, why not release the names and info on the people killed? It's not like the disabled who are dead can be discriminated against now... but the families still can, which is my point.

This isn't "forcing Japan to confront the problem", it's forcing them to squirm and try to bury it all the more and pray no one looks or asks.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

The names of the murder victims will have to be given at the trial of the accused and can then be published, no matter what the families want.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Apparently you can dramatically increase your safety by putting on a tinfoil hat.

0 ( +0 / -0 )


You are obviously more up to date than me. I haven't lived in Tokyo for years. It sounds like things have improved for the handicapped there.

When I had my English school in Tokyo and Sapporo, we ran a series of study abroad programmes. One was for handicapped people. I often accompanied these students when they went abroad. I found good things in England, for example there was one place in Salisbury where you could rent motorised wheelchairs very cheaply by the day.

But I was very impressed with New Zealand, not just for the facilities - ALL the buses accommodated wheelchairs, but you could often see handicapped people working in shops and offices. They are part of the community. It's not so much having the physical facilities to accommodate the various handicaps as general acceptance. I may be wrong, but I feel this is lacking in Japan.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

What is evident is that those with disabilities in Japan are much less likely to be victims of crime compared to those western countries.

What basis do you have to make this judgement here? Just because YOU may not read about something or hear about it does not make it a fact.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

People with disabilities are discriminated all over the world, Japan is no exception.

What is evident is that those with disabilities in Japan are much less likely to be victims of crime compared to those western countries.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Because many were severely disabled, aren't they simply being protecred as minors would be? Who says it's shame keeping the families from publishing the victim's names? In that situation your name gets dragged through the news for days or weeks, I think anyone should be able to opt out of having their name in the paper, but usually it's included as a matter of course.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

"Seeing" can be subjective. I used Hakata railway station for years and would have said that you don't often see people with disabilities in Japan. But after I broke my leg and was on crutches, suddenly people with mobility problems were everywhere. Of course they'd been there all along, but it took my own accident to make them visible.

Almost literally an eye-opening experience.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Japan's ranking in this year's paralymics is may be quite telling - 64th!!

0 ( +1 / -1 )

It's not just disabilities that people want to ignore. Diseases such as cancer and epilepsy are also shunted off to the side where "normal" people don't have to deal with them. A relative even said if she found out there was cancer in her boyfriend's family, she wouldn't marry him. Because, you know, cancer is genetic and contagious. At least most people don't make fun of disabled people, unlike the GOP candidate.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

This woke me up to the fact - truer 30 years ago than now - that you only rarely see handicapped people in the streets.

Total rubbish. Leaving aside the fact that I live near one of Tokyo's facilities for those with physical and learning disabilities and see many such people each day, I see far more people with disabilities on the streets of Tokyo than I do in London.

I ride the Arakawa tram line and regularly see wheel chair users on it. I take my coffee break looking out on a bus top for many lines going to Ikebukuro. I regularly see wheel chair users boarding. My SOHO looks out on a route taken by kids going to the neighboring elementary school. Two of the kids I see everyday are wheel chair users.

Tokyo is far better equipped for the handicapped than is London. Only the newest lines on the London rail network have fairly decent provision for the handicapped. Most of the London Underground is bad for the the able bodied.

Tokyo has audible walk signals and bumps to guide the sightless, not something you will find in London.

-2 ( +5 / -7 )

I had a student in Tokyo who had lost a leg in a traffic accident when she was two years old. She could get around fine on one leg and when she wore the prosthetic, you would hardly know.

But I had to go to her house to teach her because she wouldn't leave the house unless it was unavoidable.

This woke me up to the fact - truer 30 years ago than now - that you only rarely see handicapped people in the streets. Things have improved, but Japan has a long way to go.

5 ( +8 / -3 )

to get all the capital and planning up and running takes years, I don't see how there is enough time for 2020 to make transit wheelchair friendly

1 ( +1 / -0 )

The silence has sparked debate about the need for change in a society where people with disabilities can still suffer stigma and shame.

“It is true that some may not have wanted their children to be subjected to public scorn,” said Takashi Ono, stepfather of 43-year-old Kazuya, a long time resident of the Tsukui Yamauri-en facility who survived multiple stabbing wounds in the attack.

Glad to see Mr. Ono speaking up about this situation while giving his and his son's real name.

But how pathetic that people in society think this way. If I had a special needs family member, I'd in no way ever feel the need to "hide" him or her. Real family and love transcends this way of thinking.

Having to put a disabled person in a home for needed help is fine if necessary or best. If the media wanted to report that a family member of mine was attacked, hurt, or killed there - fine. I see no need to hide it. He/She is just as much a victim as any other person.

If my special needs child loved me, I'd love them back just the same, if not more.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Wasting public funds? Shouldn't that be "stealing public funds"?

To support a disabled child? Shouldn't public funds be allotted to helping parents support their disabled children anyway?

1 ( +2 / -1 )

the willingness to accept imperfection is really lacking in the society as a whole.

It's true, but it's also what's responsible for Japanese quality. It's been frustrating for me as a foreigner working with Japanese many times, when bumping up against their insistence on focusing on every little detail, when I just want to move forward quickly. But it's also taught me to slow down and pay more attention to that detail, which results in a better product, even if it's a more frustrating journey getting to it.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Another reason why there are so many Japanese who come to my country and never leave... Japan have a lot of Tech but the willingness to accept imperfection is really lacking in the society as a whole.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

It's taking a VERY long time but, people in Japan are very slowly but, surely moving in the direction of an inclusive society. The more "inaka" you get, the slower the pace. I think that the media has to do a larger part in informing the people. Especially for people with cognitively impaired. And, yes, handicapped sports is one effective way to do this.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Fairly new subway station near my home has one small elevator, located a huge distance from the gates, requiring a long hike and two journeys to actually get to the platform. And it's tucked around a corner, like the architects wanted it hidden from sight, lest people actually spot it and then try to use it.

The airport Monorail area at Hamamatsucho was similar when I last used it. The single elevator was hidden, so most air travelers including retirees lug their suitcases up 3 flights of concrete stairs, which is exactly what the station's operators want them to do. I dont see this kind of thing in other developed countries, as well as plenty of undeveloped ones.

Japan needs to make a whole-scale shift in awareness toward the disabled, at least before 2020.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Seiko Noda, a prominent ruling party lawmaker who has suffered abuse on the internet for “wasting taxpayers’ money” on medical care for her five-year-old disabled son

Wasting public funds? Shouldn't that be "stealing public funds"?

-7 ( +1 / -8 )

Preparations for the 2020 Paralympics are providing impetus for an improved barrier-free environment, at least in Tokyo, where Tokyo Metro aims to have all subway stations equipped with multi-purpose elevators by March 2019, up from 81 percent now.

Sadly these murders are not the reason why an article like this was written, it's an excuse to cover for the reality of "THIS" here, the Paralympics.

The "Borg" media are making excuses, but the reality is that the Japanese people, at least those in Tokyo are going to be faced with hosting the Paralympics and ignorance and stupidity that people show regarding those with special needs is beyond contempt..

There has never been more attention paid to the Paralympics than this time in Rio, the press these athletes are getting is long over due, but the elephant in the room that people are ignoring and will continue to ignore from now until eternity (unless education changes) are the people who are put away into facilities like the one where the murders were committed.

People are only going to see the athletes, and are not going to care about the millions of others who are not in the spotlight and need care, love, and assistance.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Agree with Yubaru. Its also really unfortunate that it took a terrible tragedy like this for discussion to occur.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

Japan confronts disability stigma after silence over murder victims' names

No it hasn't and to assume otherwise is BS.

16 ( +16 / -0 )

Login to leave a comment

Facebook users

Use your Facebook account to login or register with JapanToday. By doing so, you will also receive an email inviting you to receive our news alerts.

Facebook Connect

Login with your JapanToday account

User registration

Articles, Offers & Useful Resources

A mix of what's trending on our other sites