Wednesday, 18 April 2007

Tetsuya Shiroo, the "gangster" responsible for shooting Nagasaki mayor Itcho Ito, is "an acting leader of the Suishin-kai gang group affiliated with Japan's biggest organized crime syndicate, the Yamaguchi-gumi", according to Kyodo News.

He "has told police that he was irritated by trouble with the city office and was prepared to kill the mayor at any cost, even his own life". A disgruntled ratepayer was responsible for the killing, it seems.

He had visited the city office more than 30 times in protest after the office tried to arbitrate in a dispute in which Shiroo was demanding compensation from a road construction company over damage to his car allegedly from a cave-in at a construction site on the city road in 2003, city officials said.

Although the only damage the vehicle sustained was to its fender, Shiroo initially demanded 600,000 yen and ended up claiming more than 2 million yen, at which point the city broke off negotiations with him in January 2005 after consulting with police, they said.

Shiroo continued to pester city officials, filing a criminal complaint against the mayor and an official in charge and posting his arguments on his website, but they had not reported his behavior to the mayor as they regarded it as a minor problem, they said.

I managed to get this snap of footage shown on the Special Broadcasting Service (SBS), the only Australian station that deemed the story important enough to cover. I was surfing at the time the segment began, but I managed to squeeze off one frame.

The New York Times demonstrates its entrenched insularity, once again, by running no information about this important murder. Al Jazeera correspondent David Hawkins, on the ground in Japan, says "the killing is looking more and more like a political mob hit."

"He says police are trying to confirm reports that the mayor was involved in a dispute with the Yakuza over city construction contracts."

Now, this sounds more like it. It's curious, don't you think, that a foreign correspondent can get better information than the native media? Says a lot about journalism in Japan, I think.

I covered the story yesterday, and lamented the incredible paucity of detail issuing from the Japanese press.

Today, Japan Today has seen fit to run myriad and uninspiring denunciations of the crime by Japanese politicians keen to gain screen time by showing their 'concern' over the event. Kyodo News provides a lot more information but, compared with coverage coming out of Virginia in the wake of the shootings by Cho Seung-Hui (who grew up in the town and was not an international student, as I first believed), it is pretty poor.

Politicians are not big news in Japan, it seems.

Family isn't that important, either, it could be said, except insofar as it can further your career. In a novel twist, Japan Today reveals that Ito's son-in-law will run for mayor. Ito died earlier this morning from loss of blood and already his daughter's husband, Makoto Yokoo (40), is stepping into his shoes.

Ito must have been a popular mayor. The election will take place on Sunday.

Both Sydney broadsheets ran stories. The one in The Sydney Morning Herald is from Reuters. The one in The Australian is from Agence France Presse, and it is the best for coverage.

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