Teen violence rising in Japan
March 14, 1998
A policeman was slashed by a teen-ager trying to steal his gun
Web posted at: 1:38 p.m. EST (1838 GMT)
TOKYO (CNN) -- A 13-year old killed his teacher after she
scolded him for being late. Another student stabbed a
classmate who had teased him about his frizzy hair. Even a
policeman was slashed by a teen-ager trying to steal his gun.
Such scenes are growing more common in Tokyo, a city that's long been considered one of the safest in the world.
While the Japanese are familiar with teen violence in other countries, such as the United States, until now they felt that youth violence was not a problem in their own country.
But that sense of security is evaporating, after a series of
attacks and murders.
Even more troubling is that nearly all the recent offenders
are students in junior high. More often than not, the weapon of choice is a so-called butterfly knife. Youngsters say the knife became popular after a popular weekly TV drama showed the teen star, Takuya Kimura, using such a knife.
"I'd say seven or eight of my friends have one," said one
student. Another admired how cool the actor looked holding
While that could explain why more kids may be carrying
knives, it doesn't explain why they're using them. In any
society, the teen-age years are difficult. But some say teens
in Japan are even more prone to explode, because many are
only-children, brought up in relatively easy times.
"Today's society is very affluent. Children are not trained
to endure; they're given anything they want. That's why they
can't stand even small problems at school or at home. So
when they act, they make extreme moves," explained school
counselor Minako Itoh.
One mother said that children raised on a diet of
video games, are out of touch with reality.
"It's a virtual generation. In their games, if they press a reset button, people come back to life. So they don't think much of stabbing, or even killing someone," she said.
Aftermath of violence
Japan's rigorous academic system is also in the spotlight, as
it was when there was a rash of children committing suicide
in the mid-1980s and early 1990s.
"It's stress. Some know how to deal with it. But I think
there are more that don't," said one mother.
But stress is a fact of life for teens everywhere, and this
leaves experts pessimistic that the recent rash of teen
violence can be dismissed as a passing phenomenon.
"Even if they abolish knives, children will find other ways to escape pressure. The true voices of children need to be
heard," warned Itoh.
Tokyo Bureau Chief Marina Kamimura contributed to this report.