LIST: Horror crimes in Japan

Sofia Tomacruz, Kimiko Sy

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LIST: Horror crimes in Japan
Heads found in containers, bodies found in suitcases, a subway gas attack – these are just some of the shockers in crimes committed in Japan

MANILA, Philippines – Japan is known to have one of the lowest crime rates in the world. 

According to data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in 2015, the country has a murder rate of 0.3 per 100,000 people – the 3rd lowest below the average murder rate of 4.1 persons among the OECD’s 35 member-countries.

But Japan is no stranger to high-profile crimes, some of which have risen to infamy for being too gruesome and akin to what’s seen in horror movies.

Recent news of a two-month killing spree, in which the dismembered bodies of 9 women were found stripped of their flesh made headlines across the world. Takahiro Shiraishi, 27, confessed to the shocking crimes after he was arrested by the police in Tokyo on Wednesday, November 1.

It’s not the first as Japan is no stranger to no less horrifying crimes. Here’s an initial list of 10 dating all the way back to 1989.

July 2017: Bodies of 2 women found in suitcases

The bodies of two missing Chinese women were found in a mountainous area near Tokyo. The bodies of the women, who were sisters, were stuffed and folded inside separate suitcases. The victims were reported missing about a week before their bodies were found.

Authorities included as a suspect a man in his 30s who was spotted in surveillance footage, visiting the sisters’ apartment before they went missing.

July 2017: ‘Black widow’ murders

A 67-year-old woman was arrested after she was suspected of lacing her husband’s drink with cyanide. Chisako Kakehi, a former millionaire, received benefits from the $6.8 million she received in insurance money after the death of several other men who were previous lovers, according to authorities. The high-profile murder cases likened Kakehi to a Black Widow spider, known to kill its mate after copulation.

“We suspect she did it for money,” a policeman said in a report by The Guardian. In the same report, Kakehi was noted to have had relationships with mostly elderly or ill men, some of whom she met through dating agencies where she indicated partners should be wealthy and childless. Kakehi faced trial in June 2017 for the murder of at least 5 men. Her lawyers argued she was innocent on the grounds of diminished responsibility. 

July 2016: Japan care home attack

On July 26, 2016, at 2 am, then 26-year-old Satoshi Uematsu smashed a window at a care home where he used to work before and began stabbing residents and slitting their throats as they slept, reported The Guardian. By the end of his rampage, 19 people aged 19-70 were dead and 25 others were seriously injured. He turned himself in. 

“I did it,” he was quoted as telling police officers at around 3 am. “It is better that disabled people disappear.”

October 2005: 5 found dead in a flat

In 2006, Chizuko Okamoto was arrested and sentenced to 12 years in prison after the bodies of two adults and the remains of 3 children were found. The Guardian reported that she admitted strangling her daughter Rikako, 19, in whose apartment the bodies were found in October 2005.

Aside from Rikako who was found lying in a futon, her half-brother from another mother, Minehiro Yamauchiin, was also found hanging from a loft opening. The remains of 3 children were found to be wrapped in black plastic bags and placed inside two cardboard boxes sealed with tape. Two youngest victims who were thought to be newborn babies were not identified while the third body was suspected to be Okamoto’s eldest son who went missing at the age of 6 in 1984.

February, May, June 2005: Suicide website murderer

Hiroshi Maeue earned the title “Suicide Website Murderer” after deceiving 3 members in an internet-based suicide club. He first invited a 14-year-old boy out to commit suicide together using charcoal fumes, but then suffocated him to death instead, Kyodo news agency reported in 2005.

The news agency said he killed two others – a 25-year-old woman and a 21-year-old male college student – by similar means and abandoned their bodies. Maeue is believed to have posted messages on several suicide websites.

June 2001: Osaka school stabbing

In June 2001, a man walked into a primary school and started attacking children with a knife, leaving 8 children dead and about 19 others injured.

The attack was counted among the worst seen at a school – with then prime minister Junichiro Koizumi vowing to help families of victims. “This should never have happened. Schools should be places where children can feel safe and secure,” said Koizumi in a report by The Guardian.

The attacker was known to have a history of mental illness and had carried out several attacks on colleagues in the past. According to the police, the attack lasted for about 10 minutes.

June 1997: 11-year-old boy’s head found on school gates

The decapitated head of an 11-year-old boy was found on the front gate of a junior high school in Kobe City.

A 14-year-old boy, who was a neighbor and acquaintance of the victim, confessed to killing the victim. In a message stuffed inside the victim’s mouth, the killer had threatened to kill 3 “vegetables” per week – a term he used to describe children – should anything frustrate him again. According to the police, the 14-year-old boy strangled and cut off the victim’s head with a handsaw.

March 1995: Tokyo subway sarin gas attack

One of the largest mass murders in Japan occurred in March 1995, when members of the Aum Supreme Truth doomsday cult led a deadly sarin attack in the Tokyo subway, leaving 13 people dead and 6,000 others injured.

The attack involved the coordinated release of at least 5 bags of the poisonous gas on 3 subway lines. According to reports, passengers lay on the ground gasping for air as some were found with blood gushing from their noses or mouths.

Local authorities hunted the attackers for nearly two decades, with only one last suspect left at large after Naoko Kikuchi, a woman who helped to make the sarin gas, was arrested in 2015. The attack was considered among the worst terrorist attacks to occur in Japan.

September 1994: Death of a bank executive

Kazufumi Hatanaka, manager of the Nagoya branch of Sumitomo Bank, was found dead by his neighbor on September 14, 1994. Hatanaka was found lying dressed in his pajamas with a bullet through his eye. There was no sign of any struggle but police said he had been shot with a handgun at close range.

The death of Hatanaka was just one of the series of threats and violence against business executives that year. Authorities suspected that the series of crimes were linked to organized crime or terror campaigns.

July 1989: The cannibal killer

Tsutomu Miyazaki was known for his obsession with sexual cartoons and pornography. He was arrested in 1989 while trying to take pictures of a naked girl outdoors. According to an ABC report, he confessed to having killed 4 girls – aged between 4 and 7 – and eating some of their remains. He also mutilated the bodies of the victims, slept next to the corpses, and drank their blood.

He was reported to have sent letters to the media using a woman’s name to claim responsibility for the crimes and even sent a box containing the remains of one girl to her family. –

Sources: JapanTimes, The Guardian,, NYTimes,, ChannelNewsAsia

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Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers defense and foreign affairs. Follow her on Twitter via @sofiatomacruz.