Sasebo Fitness Club Shooter was NOT a Foreigner

December 15, 2007

So it’s sad that I have to start off the blog with news like this, but a big part of this blog will be getting to the bottom of some of the big stories in Japan. The real big story is how the media in Japan knee-jerks to reports of a “foreigner” committing crimes.

I’ll provide links to some of the stories that came out, but also copy some of the wording because I think a lot of online news services are going to be deleting what was written.

The facts as I heard them last night before bed on news stations such as …

  • A man about 190 cm tall walked straight up to the pool area of a fitness club in nagasaki, shot a few people and then shot some kids in the pool. 1 dead, 6 injured.
  • Eyewitnesses said that the shooter seemed like a foreigner (gaikokujinhu ni mieta).
  • The shooter was wearing camouflage clothing and a motorcycle helmet that covered his face.
  • The shooter fled the scene

Soon after this, I started checking online, sure that this was yet another case of the blame falling first on the (actually non-existent) big foreigner crime problem. The news shows on tv claimed that eyewitnesses reported that the shooter was a foreigner, although none of the eyewitness interviews shown included that kind of statement.

The online message boards (2ch, et al), and tv news programs (News Zero, et al) further lead us to believe it was a foreigner because workers at the fitness club claimed that the first casualty, a 24 year old swimming instructor, had a stalker who was a foreigner.

“Sources at the sports club said that recently Kuramoto had been stalked by a foreigner.” – Mainichi News

The fingers start to point toward the US Military because of the shooter’s clothing, height, and use of a rifle.

I went to bed worried about the crazy legislation that the crazy politicians might be able to pass if it really was a foreigner, and even more so if it was an American… and a serviceman on top of that. I wondered out loud how he’d been able to get off the base with a gun, while people on 2ch (the largest message board system in Japan) were posting images of high powered rifles and links to videos on youtube showing what they could do, claiming they were the type of rifle used in the shooting.

This morning while driving to work I listened to a morning news program talking about the shooter being found dead at a local church, having shot himself with the weapon used in the attacks.

At work I fire up the firefox and check the Japanese news to find that it was a 37 year old man who had nothing to do with the young girl that was killed, but was a junior high school classmate of the man that died. He apparently shot the people in the office and then turned the gun toward the window leading to the pool and fired a few shops. He had a shotgun as well as a legal license to carry it.

He had apparently recently been invited to visit the gym with some friends for a trial and was overheard making threats.

The story is developing quickly even as I write this.

NOTE: The JAPAN TIMES online has ALREADY deleted any articles about the shooting before the article which describes the shooter’s body being found! I would really like the news agencies that reported that this guy was a foreigner to step up and take responsibility… explain why it was appropriate for them to report that possibility at that juncture (if they did not have facts). The google cache links to the most recent story, although we can get the previous headline and the first paragraph.

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