Sasebo Gym Shooting: Some media speculates that a NJ did it


Hi Blog. Probably by now most of you have heard about the shooting in Sasebo, Kyushu, where an unknown assailant walked in and shot several people, killing two. (only one death mentioned).

Then came the speculation whodunit. The perpetrator was described as wearing camouflage pants and a white jacket, with his face covered. His height (170 to 190 cms, quite a variation). The Japan Times article above (and a Sankei article below) insinuated that there might have been organized crime involved. NHK left nationality out completely as a factor. Most other press was very good about not spreading rumors about the perp being a foreigner due to his height (and also because Sasebo has a US military base). It turned out that the perp was probably, after all, a Japanese.

But not all media was so responsible about keeping their rumors to themself. NTV, Sankei and Mainichi reports follow:


Here are some screen captures, courtesy Alex Miller. News Zero (NTV) Dec 14, 2007, quoting a bystander witness at the sports club, but feeling the need not only to air the speculation, but even subtitle it (click on image to expand in your browser):
“Many people said, “He was wearing camouflage, dark colored, he’s a black person.'”
“A person said, ‘I think the shooter was a black person.'”


Sankei articles reproduced in total, with select translations within (love the one with the fatheaded Sophia U professor speculating on why it’s a foreigner):

Sankei Shinbun:
Headline: “Witnesses also say, ‘[The Shooter] looked like a foreigner'”
佐世保銃乱射 「外国人のようだった」との目撃情報も

産經新聞 2007.12.14 23:39


Sankei Shinbun: “Sasebo Shooting: Perp profile? Quite possibly a foreigner”
佐世保乱射事件 犯人像は? 外国人の可能性も

産經新聞 2007.12.15 00:32

Fukushima Akira, Professor Emeritus at Jouchi/Sophia University (Criminal Psychologist) conjectures, “I can envision that the perp had some kind of great stress. A guy with no money, no job, no friends. That kind of a person commits a crime like this to become heroic. There’s plenty of possibility that the perp was a foreigner who was influenced by all the shootings going on in the USA.”


Sankei Shinbun headline: “The ever-smiling [killed gym staff member] Ms. Kuramoto, ‘She was being stalked by a foreigner'”
佐世保乱射事件 笑顔絶やさぬ倉本さん 「外国人につきまとわれていた」との情報も

産經新聞 2007.12.15 00:49


[Note how there’s lots of information in the article, but only the last line, which contains any information about the alleged gaijin stalking, is the one which makes the headline.]

Now let’s switch into English, with two Mainichi articles courtesy Mark Mino-Thompson:


Fatal shooting hits Nagasaki sports club
Mainichi Shinbun Dec 14, 2007

SASEBO, Nagasaki — Two people died and several others were injured after a gunman opened fire at a sports club here Friday, police and other sources said.

An emergency phone call was received from the Renaissance Sasebo sports club in the city at 7:13 p.m. Friday, reporting a noise like an explosion. A subsequent report said it appeared that a rifle had been fired.

When officials arrived, they found a woman collapsed at the scene. She was taken to a hospital but was confirmed dead. The woman was subsequently identified as Mai Kuramoto, 26, a worker at the club. Reports said she had died almost instantly after being shot.

Officials said a man in his 30s was also shot in the stomach and died.

At least five other people, including a 48-year-old man, a 39-year-old man and two girls aged 10 and 9, were reported injured.

Sasebo Police Station officials said the shooter was between 170 and 180 centimeters tall, and was wearing a full-faced helmet and a silver-gray jacket. Reports said that he fled the scene on foot.

Sources at the sports club said that recently Kuramoto had been stalked by a foreigner.

The sports club, which has a training gym and pool, occupies the second, third and fourth floors of a four-story building. It is located in a central but quiet area of the city next to a park.


And the update (minus any apology) later…..


Suspected gunman in Sasebo shooting rampage commits suicide with shotgun
Mainichi Shinbun Dec 15, 2007

SASEBO, Nagasaki — A man believed responsible for a deadly shooting rampage that left two people dead and six injured at a sports club here was found dead in the grounds of a church early Saturday, apparently after he committed suicide, police said.

Investigators singled out a 37-year-old man with a registered shotgun as the suspect in the deadly shooting, which occurred at the Renaissance sports club in Sasebo on Friday evening.

Police launched a search for the man, and found him dead in the grounds of a church about 5 kilometers southwest of the shooting scene at about 7:35 a.m. on Saturday. He was identified as Masayoshi Magome, a resident of the Funakoshi district of Sasebo.

A single gunshot was heard in the area at about two hours earlier. Police said the man was clutching a shotgun, leading them to suspect that he committed suicide.

In the predawn hours of Saturday, a white van that Magome was believed to have abandoned was found on a road in front of the church. Two shotguns, an air rifle and camouflage gear were recovered from the vehicle.

The gunman entered the sports club shortly after 7 p.m. on Friday, and fired a shot from the entrance on the second floor towards a hall in the building as he walked forward. He then moved into an office behind a counter and fatally shot 26-year-old part-time employee Mai Kuramoto, who was with a group of children. He then turned the gun on Yuji Fujimoto, a 36-year-old fishing industry worker at the club, killing him.

Kuramoto died almost instantly in the shooting, while Fujimoto died of shock from multiple pellet wounds shortly after.

On Friday evening, Magome had invited Fujimoto and several other people to the sports club, and statements from his friends led police to single him out as the suspect. Magome was reportedly a classmate of Fujimoto during junior high school.

Also injured in the shooting were the 48-year-old club manager, a 39-year-old Sasebo Municipal Government worker, a 46-year-old man, a 22-year-old female instructor at the club, and two girls, aged 9 and 10.

The gunman temporarily holed himself up in the office, but then he fired other shots from the side of the pool at the club. He apparently fired at least six shots before fleeing on foot, carrying the shotgun. He was wearing camouflage gear and a full-face helmet.


COMMENT: It seems they were all wrong. I would just love for these media organizations (and that Sophia prof emeritus Fukushima Akira) to take responsibility and retract their conjectures. But I guess that’s errant speculation on my part.

Meanwhile, let’s hope the next shootist in Japan isn’t so tall, or hairy, or broad-shouldered, or cruel, or nearby–or else we’re going to have people kicking into default (and encouraged thusly by the media) that a gaijin musta dunnit. Arudou Debito in Sapporo

6 comments on “Sasebo Gym Shooting: Some media speculates that a NJ did it

  • Lionel Dersot says:

    According to the Wikipedia entry on this Akira Fukushima, he is a media “authority” criminologist you call live in the studio to frighten the fearful public who loves it.

    Extracted from the Wikipedia entry:

    福島は「ネット利用者、オタクは性犯罪者予備軍」との持論を展開しているが、それを裏付ける根拠を提示することは無い。 こうした「マスコミが好む意見のスピーカー」と言った側面もあり、マスメディアへの登場も多い。

    “Fukushima has developed pet theories like [‘Computer nerds are sexual criminals in training’], without offering any evidence for the claim. His tendency to be “the speaker who tells opinions loved by the media” has made him a feature of media appearance.”

    A competent and respectable honorary Professor indeed.

  • A question— the highlighted texts 黒人 (kurojin) did you highlight it or was the text highlighted by the New corps themselves? If they did it themselves I think we need to start writing letters!


  • Debito, I would like to write a letter/e-mail to the news agency that has done this sorry piece of misinformation. I went to the news site with the “gaikokujin no you datta” blurb, but couldn’t find a contact form (typical). If you have already found their contact information, would you mind sharing it with us?



    I know you have been following the reporting on the Sasebo shooting. NHK had an astounding report today (10PM Tokyo time December 16) on gun ownership in Japan. I thought that only you bear-killers up in Hokkaido had a few old muskets, but boy, was I wrong!

    Here is what I remember.

    It turns out that there are over 300,000 registered hunting guns in Japan. About 260,000 are shotguns and about 45,000 are for rifles. The application procedure includes identity documentation (kosekitohon or jyumin hyo–no discussion of whether a non-Japanese can own), a doctor’s certificate showing no drug addiction or alcoholism, a lecture on powder chemistry, ballistics and safety, and a 420-question test on the subject. However, out of 300,000 permits issued, only 47 people have ever failed the written exam.

    Also, the police are supposed to conduct an investigation of the character of the applicant, including inteviews with the neighbors, to determine whether the applicant can be entrusted with a weapon. However, there was testimony on the program, from the husband of a Japanese woman who was shot by her Japanese neighbor, that the wife had had a 20-year history of trouble with the neighbor, and had told the police but the police said “you’ll just make trouble for him so let’s ignore this.” In another case, a cop only interviewed 2 neighbors instead of the usual 6-8.

    Although one has to show a permit to buy a gun or ammunition, there is no check on how much ammunition has been stockpiled, so the Sasebo Shooter was able to stockpile 1500 rounds for his 3 guns.

    Once a permit is issued, it is essentially for life. An shooting earlier this year was by a gun owner who was “a different person when he got drunk.” He got the permit before he became an drunk, but was allowed to continue ownership despite neighbors protesting about gun discharge.

    The police have announced a program to require every registered gun owner to submit to an inspection in the next few months.

    With all those guns, it is a wonder that there is still a deer standing in Japan…

  • Andrew Smallacombe says:

    I’m curious as to which came first – the witnesses’ feeling that the perp was black (maybe caused by the contrast between a white mask and Magome’s slightly dark complexion; or just that “Japanese don’t do that kind of thing”?), or the illustrious professor’s theory. I’d hate to think the witnesses were influenced by Fukushima’s comments.

    Of course, there will be no apology. The electronic media were merely reporting what someone else said (albeit, selectively), and Fukushima is covered by his use of modifiers “There’s plenty of possibility…”

  • It also seems that unless she had more than 1 stalker, her stalker had not been a foreigner either but the gunman.


    Sasebo rampage gunman had stalked victim, planned to kill all his friends
    Mainichi Shinbun Dec 18, 2007

    SASEBO, Nagasaki — Masayoshi Magome, the gunman whose rampage in a Sasebo gym killed two and sent shockwaves through Japan, had long stalked one of his victims and had planned to kill more, police said.

    Police said Magome invited nearly 10 former classmates and associates to visit the Renaissance sports club where he unleashed his deadly attack, killing swimming instructor Mai Kuramoto and 36-year-old father Yuji Fujimoto, a long-time associate.

    Investigators added that they have learned Magome had been stalking 26-year-old Kuramoto for some time.

    Police believe Magome’s onslaught was planned and that he targeted Kuramoto’s workplace for the rampage. They also believe that Magome planned to kill indiscriminately.


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