Many Japanese Express Empathy For Shinzo Abe's Assassin Finding Suffering He Has Gone Through, All Too Familiar

  • People in social media are suggesting that care packages should be sent to him to cheer him up and make him feel less lonely.
  • Several people in the similar age bracket are all too familiar with these painful emotions, as a result of the suffering in their own life, the economic malaise and the social turmoil.
  • Swarajya StaffFriday, August 26, 2022 12:32 pm IST
    Tetsuya Yamagami
    Tetsuya Yamagami

    The assassination of former Japanese prime minister stunned the world.

    Now, as more details of the assassin's life are emerging, people in Japan are expressing empathy for the 41 year old.

    Tetsuya Yamagami, the assassin, was apparently well of until his mother started making huge donations to the controversial Unification Church. These donations by his mother left him poor, neglected and filled with despair.

    Several people in the similar age bracket are all too familiar with these painful emotions, as a result of the suffering in their own life, the economic malaise and the social turmoil.

    People in social media are suggesting that care packages should be sent to him to cheer him up and make him feel less lonely.

    Yamagami was a 4 year old child when his father killed himself.

    After his mother joined the church and started making donations, it bankrupted his family and shattered him dream of going to college.

    Soon, just like his father, his brother too committed suicide. Yamagami served in the navy for 3 years. After his service, he worked as a factory worker.

    There has also been a petition requesting prosecutorial leniency for Yamagami. Thousands of people have already signed the petition.

    "Experts say the case has also illuminated the plight of thousands of other children of church adherents who have faced abuse and neglect," read a report from AP.

    “After my mother joined the church (in the 1990s), my entire teenage years were gone, with some 100 million yen ($735,000) wasted. It’s not an exaggeration to say my experience during that time has kept distorting my entire life," read a letter written by Yamagami.

    Kimiaki Nishida, a Rissho University psychology professor and expert in cult studies told AP that, "If he hadn’t allegedly committed the crime, Mr. Yamagami would deserve much sympathy. There are many others who also suffer."

    Japan's governing party has come under scrutiny as well due to ties of some of its members with the controversial church.

    Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s popularity has gone south since the killing.

    For what its worth, he has shuffled his cabinet to purge members with ties to the religious group.

    The Unification Church was founded in South Korea in 1954. Since the 1980s, it has faced accusations of brainwashing its adherents into making huge donations.

    Yamagami's uncle says that Yamagami's mother donated $440,000, which is 60 million yen, to the church, within months of joining the church.

    "When her father died in the late 1990s, she sold company property worth 40 million yen ($293,000), bankrupting the family in 2002. The uncle said he had to stop giving money for food and school to the Yamagami children because the mother gave it to the church, not her children," reads the AP report.

    When Yamagami tried to end his own life in 2005, his mother did not even bother to return from a trip to South Korea, as per his uncle.

    Yamagami’s mother has apparently told prosecutors that she was sorry for troubling the church over her son’s alleged crime.

    Yamagami's uncle says that she remains a follower of the church.

    Yamagami began tweeting in 2019. He tweeted under the name of 'Silent Hill 333.'

    He wrote about the church and his painful past.

    During the year end of 2019 he tweeted that his grandfather blamed his mother for his family's trouble and even tried to kill her.

    “What’s most hopeless is that my grandfather was right. But I wanted to believe my mother," uttered Yamagami.

    One reason why Yamagami's case has struck a cord is because he is a part of what the Japanese media have called the 'lost generation'.

    Generation which witnessed the Japanese boom end and had the misfortune of paying the prize of a burst bubble.

    He completed his school in 1999, which came on the foothills of country's bubble economy of the 80s. The 80s were a time period when Japan was the most happening place in the world.

    Despite being the world's 3rd biggest economy and being good on paper, the fact remains that the size of country's GDP has very little to do with whether the people in that country are flourishing or not.

    Japanese society has witnessed a pervasive spread of consumerism, materialism leading to social disparity, unstable jobs, decline in genuine, transparent, honest human connection, rise in fake, manipulative, shallow human connection and a general sense of unease and malaise.

    Mafumi Usui, a Niigata Seiryo University social psychology professor says that, "If our society had paid more attention to the problems over the past few decades, (Yamagami’s) attack could have been prevented.”

    There has been a petition signed by more than 55,000 members advocating legal protection for “second generation” followers. These people say they were manipulated to join the church at a moment when they were vulnerable.

    In a September 2021 video message, Abe praised the church’s work for its focus on family values. It is not hard to imagine how perverse it would have seemed to Yamagami whose family suffered due to her mother's involvement with the church.

    “Though I feel bitter, Abe is not my true enemy. He is only one of the Unification Church’s most influential sympathisers. I’ve already lost the mental space to think about political meanings or the consequences Abe’s death will bring," Yamagami wrote in his letter.

    The assassination has shined forth a light on "the ties between the church, which came to Japan in 1964, and the governing Liberal Democratic Party that has almost uninterruptedly ruled post World War II Japan."

    Shigeharu Aoyama is a governing lawmaker in Japan. Last month, he said that a party faction leader informed him about how the church's votes could help candidates.

    Tomihiro Tanaka, head of the church’s Japan branch has denied “political interference” with any particular party.

    He says that the church developed closer ties with governing party lawmakers than with others because of their shared anti-communist stance.

    Members of the National Network of Lawyers Against Spiritual Sales are a group who have provided legal assistance to people who have a financial dispute with the church.

    They state that they have received "34,000 complaints involving lost money exceeding a total of 120 billion yen ($900 million)," as per a report from the AP.

    A former adherent in her 40s conducted a news conference recently. She shared that she and her two sisters were coerced into joining the church when she was in high school after their mother became a follower.

    She says that she finally broke free from the 'mind control' after failure of two arranged marriages she was pushed into by the church.

    As someone “who had my life destroyed by the church, I can understand (Yamagami’s) pain, though what he did was wrong,” she says.

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