(This was originally posted on February 18th, 2014. A day later, a woman in Gunma Prefecture was most probably shot to death by her stalker)
February 21st, 2014 . Updated again on February 22nd, 2014.
Stalking in Japan is a serious problem and the laws can’t seem to catch up with it. On the 19th of this month, yet another woman was apparently killed by her stalker.
“To build a Buddha image but not to put in the soul (仏作って魂入れず/Hotoke tsukutte tamashii irezu)” is a well-known saying stemming from a folk belief that statues of Buddhist deities are meant to have a spiritual presence. In other words, it’s a metaphor for making something that’s structurally sound but missing the most vital components.
Japan’s antistalking laws are a good example. Although they have been on the books since November 2000, they are deeply flawed, outdated — and poorly enforced for a multitude of reasons, including problems endemic in Japanese police culture.
The result of these “life-less” laws is that innocent people keep losing their lives. The most recent victim appears to be a 26 year old female who was shot to death on the 19th this month.
According to news reports and other sources, on February 19th (2014) around 3pm, Chihiro Suzuki, aged 26, was shot in the head at a supermarket in Tatebayashi City in Gunman Prefecture. She died almost immediately. The police suspect the assailant was her former boyfriend. Last November (2013), she consulted with the police in Tochigi Prefecture about being stalked by her ex-boyfriend. The police acted quickly and arrested him for assault. He was fined and released. The Tochigi Prefecure Police, in accordance with the anti-stalking laws, issued him a warning to stay away from Ms. Suzuki. The Tochigi police urged her to move out of the prefecture, advice that she followed and moved to Gunma Prefecture in December of the same year. The Gunma Police, in cooperation with the Tochigi Police, kept in contact with her on a regular basis to assure her safety but she was not under constant police protection.
Her wallet was found with cash still inside the car at the crime scene. The police believe that it makes the possibility of a robbery unlikely. They were unable to get in contact with her former boyfriend. (UPDATE) The suspect was found in his car on the 22nd, dead from what is presumed to be a self-inflicted shot to the stomach*.
In October of 2013, 33-year-old Rie Miyoshi, a newlywed living in the Kanagawa Prefecture city of Zushi. She had repeatedly asked the police there to protect her from her ex-boyfriend, who was stalking her both online and stealthily in the real world.
Between January and August of 2012, police issued 1,511 warnings against stalkers — a figure already surpassing the all-time high of 1,384 for the whole of 2007. 1n 2011, when 1,288 warnings were made to alleged violators of the antistalking laws, only 205 arrests were made, according to the National Police Agency (NPA).
Recently, even the wife of the Prime Minister of Japan has raised her voice in protest about Japan’s lackluster stalking laws and a failure to enforce them. Together with former Miss International, Ikumi Yoshimatsu, they have launched a petition drive to encourage serious change in the laws and concrete actions. Ms. Yoshimatsu writes in the petition:
As a first step, I ask that you establish a taskforce to investigate stalking and violence against women with the objective of laying out an immediate national strategy to address these issues and offer real protection for women.Out of all the industrialized nations, Japan is by far the lowest ranking country on Gender Equality. –A disgraceful 105 out of 136 countries.We need strict anti-stalking laws and strong punishment for perpetrators of crimes against women. We need a police force that will protect women and immediately act to prevent stalking and intimidation.We need Restraining Orders granted by the courts for any woman who has been threatened, BEFORE she is actually harmed, murdered, or forced to commit suicide. We need media that report on these issues without fear. Without protecting the women of Japan, our country will never enjoy the economic and moral benefits of a truly equal society.
You can sign the petition by clicking below.
For those of you who don’t want to wade through a lengthy article, our resident social critic and manga writer, Kaori Shoji, explains it all for you in manga fashion (Note: the comic was written in 2013, so it’s a little out of date) If you encounter a stalker in Japan, go to the police. They are more helpful than they have been in the past. Which isn’t saying a lot…but it’s better. The police are trying to deal with the problem but when stalkers are simply fined and let out of jail, can there victims really be safe?
Note to the stalkers of the world: If you want to prove to your victim how much you love them, kill yourself first before killing them. It will leave a lasting impression. Yes, if you kill yourself first it will be difficult to kill them so no one else can have them but at least they’ll know you loved them. Just skip the murder and go directly to your own suicide.