“When I was riding my bicycle, I saw a girl playing in the yard of a house. I wanted to touch her body. I went to the house in the middle of the night, pulled open some windows, and found an unlocked window, so I went inside. Then I reached out to touch the girl’s body, but I couldn’t reach her, and if I pushed too hard, the bed might shake and wake her up. I decided to give up that day.” (defendant Minoru Yanagawa).
In August last year, the Saitama Prefectural Police Tokorozawa Police Station arrested Makoto Yanagawa, 34, a part-time restaurant worker at the time of his arrest, for breaking into a house late at night and indecently assaulting a sleeping girl.
The defendant Yanagawa searched a house where there was a girl around 10 years old beforehand. He broke into the house through an unlocked window in the middle of the night and touched the girl’s body, which constituted breaking and entering, indecent assault, semi-indecent assault, and attempted indecent assault. He was also charged with making child pornography by filming the girl while she slept.
He was re-arrested three times and was eventually indicted on suspicion of committing indecent acts against five girls between 2017 and May 2022.
The defendant Yanagawa had originally been an underwear thief since junior high school. According to a Fuji TV report, “Saitama Prefectural Police found 6,900 obscene videos and images and established 10 cases of obscenity and 90 cases of theft, making as many as 100 crimes into cases.”
“When I meet him, he bows lightly. He seems to be a quiet and serious young man,” said a neighbor. When he finds a house with a girl, he visits it in the middle of the night, and if he finds an unlocked window, he breaks in. They wander around the house looking for the girl, and when they find her, they touch her body or capture her sleeping form on video with their smartphones. They also took pictures of the girl’s gym clothes, stationery, and other items that showed her name and grade. They were careful not to wake the girl and continued to break into the house until they were discovered by the householder. Because of this, some families were unaware of the damage for a long period of time.
The trial of the defendant Yanagawa was held at the Saitama District Court, Kawagoe Branch from October 19 last year.
During the trial, a statement from the girl’s mother, who had noticed Yanagawa, was read out.
I woke up in the middle of the night when I was sleeping with my daughter. When I turned over the covers of the bed, I noticed a person cowering at my feet. I realized that a stranger was in the house, and I was terrified. But I was the only one who could protect my daughter. As I pulled my daughter to me, I gathered up my courage and shouted, “Who are you? Then a figure stood up and said, ‘Excuse me. I’m sorry.”
The investigation began when a family member noticed Yanagawa’s crime and reported it, leading to the discovery of a despicable crime that had been going on for several years.
When asked by the defense attorney during the defendant’s questioning, “Why did you commit this crime?”
I thought that if I could find an unlocked house, I would be able to see and touch the girls in a way that was not possible on the Internet.
“I was under a lot of stress from my relationships at work and the debt I owed to pay for my father’s medical bills. When that blur built up, I couldn’t restrain myself from committing the crime.”
When asked by the presiding judge, “Didn’t you think that you would be caught someday?”
He answered, “Yes, I did. However, I tried not to think about it because my anxiety about being arrested increased. I was so anxious about being arrested that I tried not to think about it, and I lost all sense of guilt.”
At the trial held on February 27, the prosecutor stated that Yanagawa had carefully planned his crime and that he had a marked habitual tendency to commit crimes. He also pointed out that the crime was committed in the same area, which caused anxiety among the residents, especially families with girls. The defendant was sentenced to seven years in prison , saying, “This crime is child abuse itself, and the criminal responsibility is serious.”
On the other hand, his defense counsel stated, “Defendant Yanagawa has no previous convictions or criminal record, and after his arrest, he sincerely faced up to the crime he committed, including rewriting his letter of remorse many times. He has also vowed to seek professional medical treatment for his sexual preference. For this one time only, I ask for a suspended sentence.”
The sentence was handed down on March 20. The defendant Yanagawa, who had shaved his head, entered the courtroom wearing a navy blue top and bottom jersey.
When the presiding judge handed down the sentence, “The defendant is sentenced to four years in prison,” he answered in a loud voice, “Yes. He then straightened his back and stared at the presiding judge as he read the sentence.”
After his release from prison, defendant Yanagawa promised to undergo a recidivism program under the supervision of a specialist and to redeem himself as best he could. During the trial, a letter from his mother was read: “I am shocked to see your other face,” and “Do you know how many people have been hurt by your despicable acts?”
I wondered if her mother’s words would reach Yanagawa.
Interview, writing, and photography： Nakahira