Among the top stories this week in Japan is the tragedy of a disturbed high school boy who decapitated his mother and then turned himself in to police.
The story is still unfolding, and due to Japan’s laws protecting the identity of criminal suspects under the age of twenty there are no names or images of killer or victim, but the media coverage has picked apart every detail available so far. The Asashi Shimbun’s initial report (E), and a follow-up report (E) are two English-language examples describing the gruesome crime.
According to Asahi’s account, the unnamed 17-year-old boy may have been suffering from psychological problems, although the family wasn’t known to have any significant problems. The boy and his younger brother were living together in an apartment some distance from their parents so they could attend a prestigious high school.
Early Tuesday morning, while his mother was visiting, something apparently drove the boy to cut her throat as she slept. Media reports say that he then sawed off her right arm, painted it white, and “planted” it in a flower pot. Later, he put her head in his school bag, spent a couple of hours in an Internet cafe, and finally went to the police station to turn himself in for the crime. His brother, sleeping in another room, apparently was unaware that anything was wrong.
The senseless crime—there was no apparent motive, and the boy is being quoted as saying that it didn’t matter who he killed—is the latest in a string of shocking murders that are perceived to be on the rise in a nation where violent crime rates are extraordinarily low. This Mainichi report (E) is one example of the public perception and associated statistics.
The actual number of crimes of this sort are by almost any account quite low in Japan, which makes the public scrutiny of the incidents all the more intense, and contributes to the perception that the sense of harmony and order that has ruled Japanese society for decades is eroding.