The value of my husband’s life, who was unemployed, was too low…” Benefits paid to the families of the victims of the arson attack on an Osaka building were “too low.” | FRIDAY DIGITAL

The value of my husband’s life, who was unemployed, was too low…” Benefits paid to the families of the victims of the arson attack on an Osaka building were “too low.”

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on LINE
The crime scene of the arson attack on the Osaka Building in December 2021. A sheet has been placed over the window area on the fourth floor where the arson took place (Photo by Miho Nakanishi).

One year has passed since he disappeared. My life without him has continued, or rather, I am forced to continue, so I guess you could say that I am getting used to the change. I just have to live with how I feel.”

Ms. Ako, who lost her husband in the arson murder that took place on December 17, 2009 in Kita-ku, Osaka City, told us this while carefully choosing her words. More than a year has passed since the incident, and we were able to ask her about her current thoughts and feelings.

I don’t want to change my life because of the incident.

On December 17, 2009, the area of Kitashinchi where the building is located was enveloped in black smoke, and the smell was strong. A total of 26 people, including the director of the Nishi-Umeda Kokoro to Karada no Clinic, staff, and patients, died in the Kitashinchi Building arson and murder case. The suspected culprit, Morio Tanimoto, also died on December 30 after the incident. The idea that he attempted an extended suicide was strengthened, but now that the suspect is dead, the motive for his death remains shrouded in darkness.

On that day, Ms. Ako was working at her place of employment as usual, and it was through the Internet news that she learned of the incident.

At first, the news didn’t really hit me,” she said. My husband was going out every day for a rework program, but I didn’t keep track of it in that much detail, going to this place on this day…. But that morning, I heard that we were going to the new area, and when I saw the building on the news, I thought, ‘Isn’t this the place? I called him, but I couldn’t reach him. When I called him, I couldn’t get through to him, and his e-mail didn’t get read.

As if to cover up her anxiety, she left work as usual that day and returned home. However, her husband did not return home until after the usual time.

Ms. A’s husband became ill and left the company he was working for. When her husband’s mother received the news from Ms. A, she was very upset. Immediately after that, she received a call from the police on her cell phone.

The police said, ‘I’m very sorry to tell you this,’ and I knew it was the right thing to do. After that, I went to the police station to see her husband, but he was really clean. His clothes were still on. As soon as I thought, ‘Oh my God,’ I thought he must have just passed out. I thought this would be a good way for my children to see him, so I was able to show them what he looked like at the end.

Her late husband was on his way to return to work, so she was supporting the family financially. After the incident, she considered living at her parents’ house,

However, she said, “I have not changed my lifestyle after the incident. I am continuing to work. I feel most frustrated that I have to change my life because of the incident, or that I am forced to change my life.

Although she has had to reduce the amount of work she does for physical reasons, such as taking care of her children, because her husband is gone, she continues to live her life as she did before the incident as much as possible.

Now, one year after the incident, she faces a new problem.

I don’t know how to explain my husband’s death to people around me. I have told my workplace that my husband died, but I haven’t told them why. I can’t explain that, can I? I don’t want to either. Some of my children’s friends’ parents are aware of it, but there is no need for me to tell them.

It is different from a death due to illness or a car accident. I am not hiding it, but I don’t want them to know. There is nothing positive to be known about it. Everyone knows how it was reported and what the case is about. In fact, I don’t know how to explain it.

Ms. Aiko A. swings with her child in her arms. Although she has lost her irreplaceable husband, she says she does not reduce her workload as much as possible.

Recently, a parent of one of her children’s friends asked her, “Dad, I haven’t seen you around lately. Ako says she was at a loss for words.

I guess you could call it the aftereffects of the incident that drew so much attention from the public… I am still too upset to give a good answer.

This is a recent issue. If it were 20 or 30 years later, I would be able to say that my husband died for this reason.

Having children is a big help.

In addition, Ms. A is now suffering from a different kind of “pain” than she did immediately after the incident, due to the image of the “victim’s family” that haunts her.

She said, “I guess you could call it prejudice, or the structure of society, which picks on victims and the weak. People poke around a lot.

(They ask, ‘How did you do it because your husband wasn’t working? How was he after the incident? What about the house mortgage? What are you going to do about the house loan? I can’t stop people from asking questions, and I can’t help it, but I don’t like it.

The wounds I received immediately after the incident will fade with time, but then I will be tormented in various ways and get other wounds. They get gouged out more and more.”

Ms. Ako cannot hide her resentment at the fact that the victims are forced to start their lives in a different way after the incident, and she feels that this is being “taken lightly.

My child is still young, but I think he understands a lot of things after so much media coverage,” she said. “My child is still young, but I think he understands a lot of things after so much coverage. But I don’t think they understand what it means when a father dies.

In the children, they are getting used to the fact that their husbands are gone. But they remember their husbands very well. My husband was looking for a job, he was in a rework program, and I was working outside the home, so I think the time with him was probably longer and more intense for the children than it was for me.

I will never get rid of the question, “Why did this happen? is a question that will never go away. I wonder if I would not have had to go through all of this if I had not married him, but there is no point in dwelling on it. But if I hadn’t married him, I wouldn’t have had children, and when I think about the fact that I will have to live after he is gone, having children is a big help.

She said she did not want to change her life even after her husband was gone, but she was confronted with the harsh reality of the situation.

For the perpetrators and the public, once a crime is committed, that is the end, but for the family members of those involved in the crime, their lives as “crime victims” begin from there.

Ms. A suddenly became a “crime victim,” a bereaved family member whose loved one was murdered.

The hospital that performed the autopsy charged us a fee for issuing the autopsy report, and we had to pay for the transportation of the body, even though we were the ones who were killed. The hospital that performed the autopsy also charged me a fee, and I unintentionally said to the police, ‘Why am I paying for this?

On the other hand, in Japan, the government has established a system of benefits for victims of crimes, but it is still in its infancy.

In Japan, however, the system is still in its infancy. “Benefits are not paid until many months after an application is filed, and there are very strict rules for reducing the amount. I was also told that my benefits would be reduced…I wonder if my husband was at fault in any way. If so, I would like to know.

As Ms. A says, the amount of benefits for surviving family members varies from 3.2 million yen to approximately 29.6 million yen, and the average benefit amount in FY2021 was 6.65 million yen.

The Basic Law for Victims of Crime is in place in Japan, but even the legal fees for claiming damages from the perpetrator are expensive, and if (a person who dies suddenly one day) is supporting his or her family, the family left behind will be on the street from the next day. I would like to see a system that provides support in all aspects of life and mental health, but from the perspective of the victims of crimes, it is difficult to say that they are in a supported situation. Although the system claims to provide support, in the end, the crime victims and their families have to pay for much of it.

Ms. A, likewise, went through the various procedures after her husband’s death as best she could, amidst her resentment and immense grief toward the perpetrator.

Ms. Ako interviewed (Photo by Miho Nakanishi)

Crime Victims Are Being Pretended to Have Never Existed

What made Ms. Ako’s life even more difficult was the aforementioned system of benefits for crime victims, etc. In the case of her husband, because he had been attending a rework program, he was treated as unemployed, and the standards for calculating benefits were very strict.

The suspect is also deceased and cannot bring a court case or claim damages. Besides, my husband was only out of work because of his illness, and he was very upset that his benefits were being calculated as unemployed. I was very, very shocked to find out that my husband was calculated as unemployed, even though he was only out of work because of his illness.

All of the people at the clinic had just worked hard to get over their resignations and layoffs and return to work. To be measured by their employment status at that moment is questionable, and I am very angry and saddened that my husband’s life is being devalued.”

If he is unemployed and has no dependents, and is between the ages of 40 and 45, the benefit amount would be 4.8 million, the minimum amount, he said.

In Japan, costs paid in relation to perpetrators, such as the operation of prison facilities, amount to about 260 billion yen per year, according to the budget of the Ministry of Justice and other sources. On the other hand, according to the “White Paper on Crime,” the amount of benefits paid to victims of crimes is only about 1 billion yen per year, highlighting the fact that victims are not protected.

According to “Crime White,” crime victims are not protected by the system or by society. When an incident occurs or at a critical juncture, they get a lot of attention and coverage, but at other times, every single hardship and suffering of crime victims is really, really ignored.

We still have to live with it. It’s not over. From that point on, with the start of a different life, the landscape is looking different and different, and with each landscape, new challenges are found, and then a completely different landscape opens up, and we have to fight each time.

In 2022, the “Diet Members Caucus for Verification and Promotion of Policies for Crime Victims,” chaired by former Minister of Justice Yoko Kamikawa, was established as a result of the continued efforts of crime victims, including Ms. Aiko, to raise their voices.

The former Minister of Justice, Yoko Kamikawa, is the chairperson of the new organization, which will be established in 2022. I think there are more people who think so. One year has passed since the incident, and during that time I have gotten to know other crime victims and have learned how to live in the future, or perhaps how to fight in my own way.

Ms. Ako is now a member of the Association for Crime Victims’ Compensation (Kobe City, Hyogo Prefecture), and is seeking improvements in the system.

You never know when or where you will become a victim of crime. When an incident first occurs, attention is focused on the incident itself and the perpetrator, but as time passes, the incident is forgotten. I hope that the cries of Ms. Ako’s heart will help to change the reality that is too harsh on crime victims.

On December 18, 2021, the day after the fire broke out, the press photographed the fourth floor where the fire broke out.
Many people offer flowers in front of the building where the fire broke out
People praying at the floral tribute
On December 17, 2009, Tanimoto set fire to a clinic where he went to the hospital and was himself transported to a hospital in Osaka City.
Tanimoto in junior high school. His parents also ran a sheet metal factory in Osaka Prefecture.
The suspect’s house in Nishiyodogawa Ward. A blue sheet was stretched over the part of the house that was burned in the blaze that occurred just before the crime.
The entrance to the building that was set on fire. The signboard is still in place, but the building is in ruins and inaccessible.
  • Interview, text, and photographs Miho Nakanishi

    Nonfiction writer and representative of NPO Third Place. Formerly a reporter for a weekly magazine. After having twins through fertility treatment, she found out that her second son had a disability. Using her own experiences, she focuses her reporting on assisted reproductive technologies, pregnancy, childbirth, childcare, disabilities, and welfare. Twitter (@thirdplace_npo)

  • PHOTO Takuma Arimura, Takamasa Yamazaki, Ryo Nakahira (at the suspect's house)

Photo Gallery10 total

Photo Selection

Check out the best photos for you.

Related Articles