Teen stabs politician with sword

In the early afternoon of October 12, 1960, Otoya Yamaguchi, a 17-year-old high school student, found himself alone in his brother’s house in Tokyo, Japan. He patiently awaited the boiling of a tea kettle. Despite it being a Wednesday, Otoya should have been in school. However, on that particular day, he had attended school briefly before slipping out through a side door during lunchtime. Increasingly, Otoya had been grappling with the sense of futility associated with school. Sitting in history class, watching his classmates diligently taking notes, he couldn’t shake the feeling that the true essence of history was unfolding beyond the classroom walls.

At that moment, the kettle perched on the stove started to emit a high-pitched whistle, signaling that the water had reached its boiling point. Without delay, Otoya seized the kettle, removed it from the burner, and carefully poured the steaming water over a tea bag nestled inside a cup. As he slowly stirred his tea, his mind drifted toward the upcoming events of the day. There was no denying that Otoya was in for a challenging afternoon ahead. He had a crucial meeting scheduled with an individual of great importance, and during this encounter, he would be tasked with delivering exceptionally distressing news. In fact, the gravity of the news was so profound that Otoya had resolved to inscribe it in writing and personally hand it over.

At this moment, Otoya hadn’t fully determined the content of his impending message, but he was acutely aware that it needed to be flawless. Over the past several months, Otoya had grappled with the challenge of conveying troubling news that had been burdening him to both his peers and adults willing to lend an ear. Unfortunately, Otoya found himself faced with a lack of serious consideration. Grown-ups often dismissed him, regarding him merely as a child whose concerns couldn’t possibly hold any genuine weight. When Otoya attempted to engage his classmates in conversation, their response was typically marked by dismissive laughter.

Otoya’s brows furrowed as he gazed out of the window. A realization began to form within him, “Perhaps, I’ve been conveying too much anger whenever I discuss this unfortunate news. It’s time for a shift in my approach, a more sincere tone perhaps.” Lost in thought, Otoya suddenly felt a spark of inspiration, thinking, “Eureka! I’ve got the perfect words.” With haste, he left his tea behind, darted towards his brother’s desk, seized a pen and a sheet of paper, and began to write.

Over the past year, Otoya experienced a profound transformation, one that allowed him to discover his true self. Coming from a highly disciplined background, with his father serving as a colonel in the Japanese military, Otoya had always adhered to strict obedience and politeness. However, a couple of years prior, he successfully secured a place in a high school located in Tokyo, a significant distance from his upbringing and, most importantly, from his father. This opportunity filled Otoya with excitement, as he believed attending this Tokyo high school would finally liberate him from his father’s overbearing authoritarian control.

And initially, Otoya’s father had allowed him to attend the high school in Tokyo. However, just a few weeks into his enrollment, his father had a change of heart, expressing, ‘I’d prefer you not to continue there.’ Consequently, he insisted that Otoya return home and enroll in a Catholic school closer to their hometown. It marked the first time in Otoya’s life that he decided to stand up to his father’s wishes. Although Otoya did return home and started attending the Catholic school, he wasted no time in repeatedly pleading with his father to allow him to return to Tokyo, live with his brother there, and attend the high school that held his heart.

Eventually, to everyone’s surprise, Otoya’s father finally yielded, uttering, “Alright, you may proceed to Tokyo and pursue your desires.” Otoya was elated beyond measure. Upon his return to Tokyo, he promptly re-enrolled in high school, but within just a few months, his enthusiasm for academics waned, giving way to an intense fascination with politics.

Otoya’s brother, with whom he resided in Tokyo, had a deep passion for politics. He frequently accompanied Otoya to political speeches and rallies, igniting a growing interest within him. Before long, Otoya found himself deeply drawn to the world of politics, to the point where he believed that his life’s purpose lay within it. The prospect of waiting until he graduated from high school to pursue his political ambitions didn’t sit well with him.

However, whenever Otoya shared his aspirations with those willing to listen, nobody seemed to take him seriously. They viewed him as a slender, unassuming individual, seemingly too meek to make any significant impact on the world.

However, Otoya held a contrasting view. He had nearly completed the note he was composing, so he glanced at the clock. It indicated that it was already 2 p.m., signaling that he had to depart soon. His destination was the Hibiya Public Hall in downtown Tokyo, where a significant political debate awaited him. The individual of great importance, to whom he was entrusted to convey unfavorable news, would also be present at this event.

Otoya glanced once more at the note he had recently penned, carefully reviewing its contents. Upon reflection, he detected an omission at the bottom. Leaning down, he added, “I cannot forgive you.” With a sense of completion, he folded the note, placed it into his pocket, and rose to his feet. He reached for his school uniform jacket, donned it, and then took hold of a package he had retrieved from his father’s house, tucking it securely under his arm. Finally, he made his way towards the front door.

Otoya had always cherished his walks downtown, especially when they led him to the grand hall near the Imperial Palace where the upcoming debate was scheduled. The sight of the imposing building, adorned with a captivating terracotta and stone facade, never failed to inspire him. Upon reaching the hall, Otoya was greeted by a bustling crowd converging at the front entrance, all eagerly anticipating the start of the debate. He joined the throng and made his way inside, ultimately finding a spot towards the back of the auditorium.

As he scanned the expansive audience of approximately 2,000 people, their lively conversations and laughter filling the air, Otoya couldn’t help but wonder about the person he had come to meet. Despite his thorough search of the room, the individual remained elusive, and a sense of unease began to settle in.

Around 2:45 PM, the debate’s moderator ascended the stage at the front. He approached the podium, took hold of the microphone, and proceeded to instruct the audience to find their seats and maintain silence. Then, he proceeded to outline the debate’s rules. At this juncture, Otoya’s attention was only partially engaged, as he continued to scan the interior of the hall in search of the person he was supposed to meet, wondering, “Where could they be? They’re not here.”

A quarter of an hour passed, approximately at 3 PM, and the moderator stepped away from the podium. Taking his place on stage was a politician by the name of Inejiro Asanuma, who held the position of chairman within the Japan Socialist Party. However, as he commenced his speech, and the vast crowd of thousands hung on to his every word, Otoya’s attention had completely shifted, for the person he had been anticipating had finally arrived.

Taking great care to avoid drawing attention, Otoya discreetly shifted from the rear of the auditorium to the building’s side. He quietly traversed a side aisle, pausing briefly beside a garbage bin. Retrieving a package from his father’s house, he unwrapped it, discarding the wrapping material. As he gazed at the contents of the package, he inhaled deeply, then lifted his head and swiftly transitioned into a sprint.

The events that unfolded next were aired live on television throughout Japan. By that evening, the footage had become a global sensation, spreading far and wide. Among the crowd of spectators witnessing this pivotal moment in Otoya’s life, a fortunate photographer captured an iconic image. This photograph would ultimately earn the prestigious Pulitzer Prize in 1961.

The Pulitzer Prize holds immense significance, being the most esteemed accolade in journalism. It turned out that the highly anticipated individual Otoya was scheduled to rendezvous with within the confines of this auditorium during the debate was none other than Inejiro Asanuma, the Japan Socialist Party’s chairman, who was scheduled to speak on stage at 3 PM. Concealed within the package Otoya had transported from his father’s residence to this gathering was a samurai sword. Consequently, as Otoya unveiled the sword, he drew a deep breath and proceeded to rush onto the stage, swiftly advancing towards the lectern. With a forceful motion, he brandished the sword and drove it into Asanuma’s torso before any response could be mustered.

The Pulitzer-winning photographer amidst the crowd captured a pivotal moment when Otoya withdrew the sword from Asanuma and prepared to strike him once more. Immediately, spectators surged onto the stage, apprehending Otoya, but the irreversible harm had already been inflicted. Within the hour, Asanuma succumbed to his injuries.

As it turned out, since relocating to Tokyo, Otoya had undergone a transformation into a fervent right-wing ultra-nationalist. The note he meticulously composed and tucked into his pocket before committing the assassination conveyed that his animosity was not directed at Asanuma as an individual, but rather at Asanuma’s perceived role in pushing Japan towards communism. Otoya found this unforgivable, prompting him to take decisive action.

Soon after the assassination, Otoya was promptly apprehended. However, a mere two weeks later, while incarcerated, he tragically chose to end his life.

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