October 19, 2017

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Katsunori Fujii, Head of Japan Council on Disability Shares Insights on Sagamihara Massacre at Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan

Katsunori Fujii, Chairperson of Japan Council on Disability

Katsunori Fujii, Chairperson of Japan Council on Disability

On August 10, a press conference by Katsunori Fujii, the head of Japan Council of Disability was held at the Foreign Correspondants’ Club of Japan in the wake of the massacre where 19 people with disabilities living in Yamayuri-en, an institution for disabled, were killed on July 26.  Tetsuo Jimbo, a long time member of the FCCJ, recently had an opportunity to have an interview with Fujii on a program by his company, Video News. During the interview, Jimbo had eye opening experiences through conversing with him, he thought that his insights were profound and that they should be heard by wider audience.  Following this interview, Jimbo invited Fujii to an FCCJ conference to share his insights about the incident.

Moderator, Tetsuo Jimbo: OK. Let’s get started. Welcome to the press conference at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan. Today, we have a speaker, Katsunori Fujii, he heads the group called Japan Council on Disability which represents all people with disabilities, and he had worked all his life, for the betterment of disabled people. He, himself is actually blind.  And in the wake of the mass stabbing incident in Sagamihara last month, in which 19 people were killed and 25 were injured. I had an opportunity to interview Mr. Fujii, and he was really an eye opener for me. He taught me his views about the incident, and the feeling that the people with disability are getting from that incident. So, I thought more people should hear what he has to say, so I asked him to speak at the club today, and he is going to speak about 10 minutes in Japanese first, so with interpretation it will be about 20-25 minutes, and then we will open up the floor for the Q and A, and you should have the statement that his organization issued both in English and Japanese if you will. And also his speech, but let me just assure you that he is not going to read read the speech as you know, so his actual speech may differ slightly from the text in front of you. So, please keep that in mind. The interpreter today is Ms. Ushiro. Please welcome Mr. Katsunori Fujii.


Thank you very much. My name is Katsunori Fujii. I cannot speak English.

Today, I would like to give my speech on my thought on the killing, mass killing at the Sagamihara care center, and the sub theme is the edge of the knife is also pointing to upon us, disabled, and this is the warning against the modern Japanese society.

 Today, I would like to give my speech on my thought on the killing, mass killing at the Sagamihara care center, and the sub theme is the edge of the knife is also pointing to upon us, disabled, and this is the warning against the modern Japanese society.

 I will just explain I am totally blind, and therefore, I would like to remind you that the speech is not going to be exactly the same as the one in the text. Now, let me begin my speech.

Everybody living in Japan must have doubted their ears and eyes at the morning news.

We would like to extend our deepest condolences to the 19 people who died, as well as 27 injured so that they could recover at the earliest possible date.

I believe that the psychological damage is extended not only to the stakeholders of Yamayuri-en institution, but also to the everyone in this entire country centering around the individuals with intellectual disorders as well as mental disorders.

It’s been more than two weeks since that incident occurred, and I have received many opinions and comments.

If I summarize the voices of disabled, I think I could categorize them into three types of shocks.

The first kind of shock is due to the gruesome report from the scene of the mass killing.

The shock is even more enhanced because of the fact that the suspect was a former caregiver at the facility. The caregiver who is supposed to protect their lives.

 The second kind of a shock is the fact that he addressed a letter to the speaker of the House of Representatives saying it is meaningless for people with disabilities to live, and it would be better if they were put to mercy killing.

Not a few people have felt that the edge of the knife is also pointing at them, the disabled. In other words, they felt like the edge of the knife is pointing to the value of themselves as a human being.

The third kind of the shock is the one that is running amongst the people with mental disorders.

Actually, the suspect had a history of admission to mental hospital according to the news report, and therefore, the people with the disabilities are fearful, they are concerned that the prejudice and discrimination against the individuals with mental illnesses maybe enhanced.

Furthermore, the review of the involuntary admission was mentioned; however there is a fear that the isolation policy may be intensified.

The entire picture of the incident remains unclear at this moment, but I would like to share with you my views at this time.

Prior to expressing my own views, what I would like to emphasize again is how brutal and despicable this incident was.

The suspect attacked the victims who have no way of resisting this murder, and also the large number of the people with the disabled were targeted when there is very scarce security or defense system as well as the support system in the middle of the night.

We can never ever forgive the act of the suspect.

Having stated this, I would like to express my views from the three standpoints.

The first point is ,which is actually the most important point, that from the behavior and the words of the suspect it seems that this incident is related to the eugenic thinking.

 Now the eugenics itself was proposed by the western scholars and since the 19th century; however, this incident reminded me of the AKTION T4 program that was conducted under the Nazis regime in Germany.

From the outbreak of World War Two in 1939 to about August 1941 under the order of Hitler, the AKTION T4 program was carried out in order to eliminate “the worthless lives,” and more than 200,000 people, more than 200,000 disabled within Germany were massacred.

Many of the victims were those with intellectual disorders as well as mental illnesses.

The worth here means the ability to work.

Prior to the AKTION T4 program, based on the offspring with the hereditery illness prevention law, approximately 400,000 disabled as well as the ill were killed.

 After the T4 program, the way to kill the individuals as well as the equipments to murder them were inherited for the Jewish massacre.

In Germany, in November 2010, there was the congress called the German psychiatry psychotherapy neurology so called DGPPN, they drew a conclusion about the AKTION program, and they started to seriously face this issue.

Since last year, I visited Germany three times, and I have been shedding light on this issue from the standpoint of human rights and disabilities.

In the middest my efforts focusing on AKTION T4 program, this incident occurred.

The question is why did the suspect come to form this way of thinking.

This AKTION T4 program should never be repeated, and yet a similar incident surfaced in our country. This gives me undescribable shock and terror.

There are still so many dark sides related to this incident, but we really need to devote all our energies to revealing the truth of this incident.

My second view is that I would like to look at this incident from the viewpoint of common feeling or common sense of the citizens.

When I view this incident from a common sense ordinary feelings then I feel uncomfortable when I look at the scene of the incident, the facility itself, and the way it’s run as well as how this incident was handled after that.

First of all, the crime of the incident was the facility itself.

To live in a group home for a long time, and this kind of a life style is not seen among the youth without any disabilities or among the middle aged people without any disabilities.

Verification is required as to whether or not this mass killing has to do with this way of living at the large facility.

What we need to investigate, well we need to focus on is it’s not the family members who were using this facility, but the policy for the disabled, as well as the government policies, which cannot promote the shift from facility to community.

Just for your information, according to the data of the NHLW, the total numbers of the individuals with an intellectual disorder is said to be 741000, out of whom 119000 people are living in the facilities.

The second point when I felt uncomfortable was the fact that the names of the victims are concealed.

In Japan, when there is a fatality in an accident or incident, it is common to disclose their names.

Depending on the names of the victims or their individual information, the way we offer prayers may be different.

Under the current situation, they are considered as the death of a group or faceless death, and therefore it is difficult for us to offer our condolences for each individual death.

The third point when I felt uncomfortable about this incident was the way the survivors of the facility are living at this moment.

It has been reported even now approximately 90 people are still living in the gym of Yamayuri-en facility.

Is it really possible, generally speaking, that the survivors have to live in the same crime scene where many of their fellow members were killed, and a gruesome incident occurred in the same premise over two weeks.

My third viewpoint is about the characteristics of the Japanese society as well as the policies for the disabled.

Of course I cannot hasten to connect these matters to the incident immediately.

However, it is a fact that this incident occurred in Japan, therefore, I cannot help, but touch upon the reality of the Japanese society where this incident occurred.

To simply put, the modern society values capitalism and also the principle of competition is dominating this world.

So, I have a concern that this social climate might have some impact on this incident.

The policy based on capitalism is casting a shadow over the disabled, over the disability areas, in the forum of this regulation and the self-responsibility.

Now, in connection of these matters, the working conditions of the supporters are suppressed low.

Under these circumstances, what is happening in the care facilities for the disabled and actually deterioration of expertise supporters. That is what is happening.

There is a chronic lack of human power and staff members. Despite the recruitment efforts, and also there aren’t many full time employees at these facilities that lead to the weak human relationship at work.

I hope you bare with me for another while, now I would like to talk about what we should do after this incident.

We need to separate the two matters. The one is there are things that we need to take action immediately, and the other is that there are substantial challenges that we have to tackle with, and these two have to be separately dealt with.

What we need to take an immediate action is we need to focus on the suspect’s direct motive, and we need to make an effort to investigate and reveal the truth of the incident.

In addition, we need to verify calmly and vigorously from every possible angle that is conceivable.

As to whether or not if there is any deficiency on the part of the facilities, and the corporation that might be linked with occurrence of the incident or the expansion of the incident as well as the weaknessees, blind spots of the local government, or the policies that they are implementing.

In parallel, we need to try to look at the substantial and essential issues.

There’s a concern the way that Japanese government responded to this incident.

For instance, the Japanese government is reporting to have said that they are going to review the way the involuntary admission should be; however, hasty measures may result in a new confusion.

Just by taking the social defensive policies, or measures per se, it’s not sufficient.

When we look back at the past 50 years, the Japanese government policies for the people with the disabilities has been always connected with the incidents and accidents.

I hope that the government will take the measures in a way that the incident will be separated from the way things should be.

The MHLW is emphasizing the security measures for the facilities for the disabilties,.

I am not fully convinced of this kind of measure. Of course the security measures are important, however when they are emphasized together with the measures to improve the situation and substance the intent of such security measures will bare fruit.

Because the enforcement of security measures alone may lead to the further isolation of the disabled from the community.

I would like to talk about the two points that might change the future of direction in substance.

First point is we need to break away from the centralized policies from the view point of the social defense.

In other words, we need to dramatically improve the qualitatively, quantitatively, so that the disabled can live in the community.

From facility to community, from medicine oriented to life oriented, and these should not be just slogans. We need to discuss them at the central stage of the politics. We have to clarify the goal.

The second point is about the way the society should be. We have to correct the society where the strong is dominant.

From facility to community, and medicine oriented to life oriented, and these should not be just slogans. We need to discuss them at the central stage of politics, and we have to clarify the goal.

The second point is the way the society should be, and we have to correct the society where the strong is dominant.

Once the UN declared, that a society which excludes people with disabilities is weak and fragile. And there is a provision saying that every person with disability has a right to respect for his or her mental integrity on a equal basis with others.

I believe that the norm of society should be rectified along with these provisions.

The lives of the19 people would never come back. However, there should be things that we can do.

We should make this incident as an opportunity to create an inclusive society where everybody is valued, and the society with any discrimination.

We need to seek this value together with each and every citizen in this society, and it is my pledge to continue my all efforts in the field of disabilities, and this concludes my speech. Thank you.

Thank you so much.

Moderator: OK. Thank you so much, Mr. Fujii. Let’s go to Q and A. Preferably I would like to start with working press. If there is anyone from working press who wants to ask questions. Please raise your hand. If you are appointed come up here, use the microphone, and cite your name, and the organization. No speech please. Any questions? Also feel free to ask questions in Japanese.

Kyodo Press: I’m from the Kyodo Press. My name is Maeyama, and I appreciate your speech for today. I have a question regarding the way the users of the facility is living. Now, you mentioned that they are living in the gym of the facility, however when I talked to the officials of the MHLW, they say that according to the characteristics of the people with disabilities, they cannot leave the place where they used to live. And what do you think of this?

Fujii:Yes. There might be people who want to stay in the same place as mentioned however as I stated in my speech when we look at this situation from an ordinary feelings the Yamayuri-En facility is close the mountainous areas and also their, the victims names, are still concealed, not disclosed even after death.  So, when I consider these matters I cannot fully understand what the MHLW is saying. Of course each individual of the 90 people living in the gym may be dealt with differently because the might have different situations. However, the fact that still 90 people living in a same facility maybe unnatural to me. And of course the investigation and the consideration of each individual case has to be made, but to me, it is rather odd that they are still in this condition.

NY Times: Now. Thank you very much for this opportunity, and my name is Ueno from NY Times. Now I have a followup question on the fact that the victims’ names weren’t disclosed.  According to the police, because of the intention of the family members of victims, their names are not disclosed. So, this means that the police department gathers the voices of the family members and established the policy not to disclose the victims’ names. Is this the right thing to do? Or if the representatives of the family members of the victims decided that the victims’ names should not be disclosed to the mass media. If this is the decision reached by the members of family, family members of the victims that might be understandable. But, what do you think of the fact that the family members of the victims want to hide the victims names? Or do not want the names of the victims to be disclosed.

The rest will be finished soon.


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