Is it just that it happened in Japan?

It is now six days since Satoshi Uematsu killed 19 people, and injured 26 others at the Tsukui Yamayuri-en care home for the intellectually disabled in Sagamihara, Kanagawa Prefecture. The last few days has been emotional time for me since I live in Japan, have cerebral palsy and am married to a Japanese woman who also has cerebral palsy. We are both academics who write about disability.

It is difficult to know how to respond Uematsu’s killing of disabled people, and I feel that any response is inadequate. What can you say when so many disabled people have been killed or injured. I am not capable of writing anything meaningful that can somehow explain what Uematsu did.

However, a day or so after July 26th – the day of the attack – several friends of mine, friends who are part of the disability community both in the UK and the USA began making posts about how the Sagamihara killings were not be being discussed as a disability hate crime. They are alleging that the issue is simply not being discussed.  It is true to say that are some in Japan who ask why the names of the victims are not being printed. The Sankei Shimbun highlighted the fact that Tsukui police decided not to release the names of the victims. I do wonder why the Tsukui police made the decision not to release the names of the victims, if this was a case of ‘simple’ murder, I’m sure the names of attacker and victim would be printed.

However, the Sagamihara attack by Satoshi Uematsu, as a disability hate crime, is being discussed in Japan. Many do wonder why the names of the victims are not being released, as the Sankei Shimbun article makes clear.  The NHK disability TV programme, NHK Baribara TV show hosted by people with disabilities – I have in fact been on the show – will discuss the Sagamihara attacks on a show on August 7th on channel NHK E.

Japan and the world at large could of course, talk about disability more, but I remain unconvinced that the reason the attacks in Sagamihara are not discussed outside of Japan, are, as some allege because of some anti-disability bias in the press, although I do wonder why the names of the victims are withheld by the police. The truth may be much simpler: Unless it is about a typhoon, an earthquake, or can be put under the ‘weird Japan’ category of news (which usually involves robots, sex, or a combination of the two), Japan is rarely talked about in the press outside of Japan. It could be that there is no ‘silence’ on the issue of disability hate crime in the Japanese media, there may however, be a general silence about news from Japan in media published outside of Japan that does not fit neatly under the category of a ‘very Japanese story’. That Japan is a ‘bad place for disabled people, rightly or wrongly, simply does not fit the image some of the western press has of Japan.

11 thoughts on “Is it just that it happened in Japan?

  1. I read another post claiming this story just “got lost” in other stories last week (political convention, terrorism, etc.). In our culture of “what’s the next big topic to trend?” I can understand how media outside Japan. I wonder if the tragedy had happened in a different country how the reaction might have been different.

    Either way, there is a community grieving for those who were murdered last week even if we don’t know their names. We don’t need to know their names to grieve.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Event : Vigil for Sagamihara murdered victims 4th Aug at 4pm – Eleanor Thoe Lisney

  3. Ableism, Violence & Sagamihara | Disability Visibility Project

  4. There have been stories in the Western press about bullying and teenagers and the pressures of the Japanese education system – for better or for worse.

    I think these stories have helped.

    #weirdjapan #cooljapan


  5. I think they see it as a “civil rights” thing! Same reason they don’t release the names of kids! They figure they’re doing a favor for people who they think are too stupid to realize what’s going on!


  6. Good sir, because you live in Japan, I was hoping that perhaps you might be able to help me ascertain whether or not a brother of mine named Trevor Stanton, who used to work with disabled children on a naval base outside of Tokyo, was one of the victims. I live in Hawaii and do not speak Japanese, nor do I have any Japanese friends. I would be grateful if someone in Japan could contact the police on my behalf, and ascertain whether or not my brother was a victim. I am concerned in regards to my brother possibly having been institutionalized in that facility, and perhaps having been killed on July 26, 2016.

    I am also concerned about my brother potentially being a victim if this mass stabbing because My brother was supposed to have legally adopted my two daughters in August of 2015 ( according to some fairly corrupt government workers) and taken them back to Japan . However, much to my dismay, I see no evidence of my daughters on his Facebook page or his wife’s Facebook page. I am concerned that my brother may have already been institutionalized at that point, and that somebody else may have adopted my daughters using his legal name and identification papers. I am also concerned that the police not releasing victim names may be tied into potential crimes against my brother and an attempt to hide those crimes. I can give you further details about my brother if you wish to email me at

    There seems to be a great deal of strangeness about this tragedy . My brother potentially being one of the victims might explain a lot of the strangeness.

    All the best to you good sir. My deepest gratitude if you think you can help me ascertain if my brother was a victim.


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