It was called “the grisliest murder in memory in Japan.” In 1997, a 14-year-old Kobe boy murdered 11-year-old Jun Hase and left his victim’s sawed-off head on the gate of a school, with a message taunting police stuffed in the mouth.
The killer, who called himself “Seito Sakakibara”—a combination of symbols meaning apostle, sake, devil, and rose—sent gleeful follow-up missives about his criminal activities to the local media, the New York Times reported at the time:
“I can relieve myself of hatred and feel at peace only when I’m killing someone,’’ the killer said in a letter sent to a local newspaper. “I can ease my own pain only by seeing others in pain.”
The police said that they were confident that the killer had written the letter because it included details not disclosed publicly. The writer also warned that “if anything frustrates me again, I’ll destroy three vegetables a week”—apparently a reference to children. The letter included a threat to begin killing adults.
After a schoolgirl was beaten to death nearby earlier this year, and another attacked and badly injured, the authorities conducted their investigation on the theory that a serial killer might be on the loose.
When the murderer was captured, Japan was shocked by his young age; despite the brutality of this crime and others that came to light (including the killing of a 10-year-old a few months before the decapitation murder), his punishment was destined to be relatively minimal. A sensational trial, in which the self-styled “Sakakibara” was referred to as “Boy A” to protect his anonymity, resulted in his commitment to a “medical juvenile reformatory” until his release on probation in 2004 when he turned 21, and full freedom in 2005.
In June of this year, Sakakibara (who has, presumably, been able to refrain from killing again) re-emerged in the Japanese press with the release of his tell-all autobiography. The Japan Times, which was likely putting it mildly by dubbing the tome “controversial,” described the book as follows:
He expresses regret for his actions in Kobe in 1997 but relates his actions in such detail that readers may be left wondering about his true feelings.
Sakakibara, who is now 32 and whose real name has not been revealed, killed two children and injured three others in attacks that terrorized the nation and triggered calls for tighter punishment for underage offenders. The juvenile crime law was stiffened in response.
In the book titled “Zekka,” a coined term that makes little sense in Japanese, the author says that as a teenager he was an “incorrigible sexual deviant” who had taken grim satisfaction in dissecting animals and, ultimately, killing fellow human beings.
Jun Hase’s family, unsurprisingly, tried to block the book’s release (one of those details: before he arranged the boy’s head on the school gate, he locked himself into a bathroom and “committed a deed ‘far more heinous than murder’” with it).
Japan Today noted that the publisher went ahead with the book’s pressing without notifying any of the victims’ still-grieving families:
Satoshi Oka, president of Ohta Publishing, said in a statement regarding the book, that Sakakibara had wanted to publish the book himself, Sankei reported. In March of this year, Ohta Publishing was approached by Sakakibara via a third party, after which a face-to-face meeting was arranged during which Sakakibara’s notes for his draft were passed over to the company.
“We have never had the opportunity to read the personal account of a juvenile criminal at this level. Although I understand this book will receive a great deal of criticism, I believe that the book details events that speak to issues of juvenile criminal accountability still relevant today,” Oka said.
Sources also told Japan Today that the killer eventually “sent a personal note of apology attached to a copy of the book” to the families of his victims, a move which seems to suggest far more cruelty than class. Predictably, it was a best-seller, and Sakakibara raked in profits ... though some reports claimed he would use at least part of the money to pay restitution to those families.
At any rate, a memoir wasn’t enough, because he’s still got something to say to the world after all that. Japan Times reported yesterday that Sakakibara now appears to have set up his own “vanity website.”
The site, named Sonzaino Taerarenai Tomeisa (The Unbearable Transparency of Being), declares that it is “former boy A’s official home page.”
...There is no confirmation that the website is the work of Sakakibara, but the weekly magazine Shukan Bunshun said Thursday it received a letter from him on Aug. 31 detailing how he came to release the memoir. The letter went on to say he had also set up a home page and gave the URL.
The website declares that it will be the sole source of information about Sakakibara, since he is not a user of online social networking.
The Japan Times piece stops short of giving out the actual URL (anyone in Japan, feel free to have a crack at it), but it does offer some description for the morbidly curious:
The “Gallery” section shows nude photos of a man wearing a mask, which viewers are invited to believe is Sakakibara himself. The website purports to show art created by Sakakibara, including photos and drawings of slugs. It also includes comments by him about his favorite books.
Distinctly lacking is an apology or any expression of remorse — to the families of his victims.
Sakakibara appears to want to engage people. The website offers an email address for them to send comments.
Experts said Sakakibara’s latest move showed he was self-absorbed and wanted attention from the public.
Top image (of school gate where Jun Hase’s head was displayed) via Wikimedia Commons.