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Death sentence for Akihabara stabber

The Tokyo District Court sentenced Tomohiro Kato, who committed a stabbing rampage in 2008, to death Thursday. Kato had been caught red-handed by police in the rampage on June 8, 2008, in Tokyo’s Akihabara district. The rampage, which Japanese media refer to as the “Akihabara phantom-killer incident,” left seven people dead and 10 injured.

While citing Kato’s personality due to his upbringing by his mother as a remote cause of the incident, the court rejected the defense counsel’s claim that he was mentally incompetent. In seeking leniency, his defense counsel argued that his mental competency was diminished at the time of the crime, saying he had lost part of his memory.

Death sentence for Akihabara stabber

Tomohiro Kato was sentenced to death for a 2008 stabbing rampage Thursday.

Kato, 28, grew up in the suburbs of Aomori. His father was a top manager in a financial institution. In elementary and junior high school, Kato had been an exceptional student and athlete. He had been a top track athlete in elementary school and president of his junior high school’s tennis club. Kato’s downward spiral seemed to begin after he was accepted into the elite Aomori High School, where he was unpopular among his classmates and ranked 300 out of 360 students in his academic ranking.

Kato’s brother told the media that their parents had put intense pressure on the brothers to excel academically. He recalled an incident where Tomohiro had been forced to eat scraps of food off the floor after he failed to live up to his parents’ standards. His neighbor recalled Kato being forced to stand outside in the winter as punishment. (Aomori, the northernmost prefecture of Japan’s Honshu island, has extremely cold winters.)

Kato had attempted suicide in 2006 by ramming his car into a wall.

After failing Hokkaido University’s entrance exams, Kato enrolled at Nakanihon Automotive College, and got a temp job at an auto parts factory in Shizuoka. He had been told that his job would be cut at the end of June 2008.

Before the rampage, Kato posted messages from his phone to an online message board that revealed his motives and intentions. The messages read: “If only I had a girlfriend, I wouldn’t have quit work.” “I don’t have a single friend and I won’t in the future. I’ll be ignored because I’m ugly. I’m lower than trash because at least the trash gets recycled.” And, “I will kill people in Akihabara.” Kato said he posed the messages in a hope that police would notice them and stop him.

Death sentence for Akihabara stabber

A police officer stands off with Tomohiro Kato after a stabbing rampage in Akihabara June 8, 2008.

At 12:33 p.m. on Sunday, June 8, 2008, Kato drove a two-ton truck he had rented into a crowd of pedestrians in Akihabara, an electronics and comic book district in Tokyo considered to be the heart of otaku, nerd, culture. After killing three people and injuring two more with the truck, he jumped out and began stabbing pedestrians with a dagger. He stabbed 12 people–killing four and injuring eight–in two minutes before police chased him down and arrested him.

Presiding Judge Hiroaki Murayama said, “It’s an inhumane and cruel act. It’s not an exaggeration to say that all of Japan was shocked by it.” Murayama handed down the death sentence prosecutors demanded Thursday.

Kato told the court, “Now I think I should not have done what I did and regret it. … I feel sorry for the victims and their families and the people injured.”



Dustin Dye

Dustin Dye is the author of the YAKUZA DYNASTY series, available through the Amazon Kindle.

He lived in Okayama, Japan, where he taught English at a junior high school through the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program for three years. He is a graduate from the University of Kansas, where he received a bachelor's degree in anthropology.

His interest in Japan began in elementary school after seeing Godzilla fight Ghidorah, the three-headed monster. But it wasn't until he discovered Akira Kurosawa's films through their spaghetti Western remakes that he truly became fascinated in the people and culture of Japan.

He lives in Kansas with his wife, daughter and guinea pig.

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E-mail him: [email protected]