Otoya Yamaguchi

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Otoya Yamaguchi
The photo of Otoya Yamaguchi that won the Pulitzer Prize. It shows Yamaguchi in the act that made him famous – assassinating Japanese politician Inejiro Asanuma
Yasushi Nagao's prize-winning photo of Yamaguchi (center) assassinating Inejiro Asanuma[1]
Native name 山口 二矢
Born (1943-02-22)February 22, 1943
Tokyo, Japan
Died November 2, 1960(1960-11-02) (aged 17)
Cause of death Suicide by hanging
Resting place Aoyama Cemetery, Minami-Aoyama, Tokyo
Known for Assassination of Inejiro Asanuma

Otoya Yamaguchi (山口 二矢, Yamaguchi Otoya, February 22, 1943 – November 2, 1960) was a Japanese ultranationalist who assassinated Inejiro Asanuma, a far-left politician and head of the Japan Socialist Party. Yamaguchi was a member of a right-wing uyoku dantai group, and assassinated Asanuma with a yoroi-dōshi on October 12, 1960, at Tokyo's Hibiya Hall during a political debate in advance of parliamentary elections.[2]


Less than three weeks after the assassination, while being held in a juvenile detention facility, Yamaguchi mixed a small amount of toothpaste with water and wrote on his cell wall, "Seven lives for my country. Long live His Imperial Majesty, the Emperor!" Yamaguchi then knotted strips of his bedsheet into a makeshift rope and used it to hang himself from a light fixture.[3] The phrase "seven lives for my country" was a reference to the last words of 14th-century samurai Kusunoki Masashige.[4]

Right-wing groups celebrated Yamaguchi as a martyr; they gave a burial coat, kimono, and belt to his parents and performed a memorial service for him.[5] His ashes were interred in Aoyama Cemetery.[6]


A photograph taken by Yasushi Nagao immediately after Otoya withdrew his sword from Asanuma would later go on to win the 1961 Pulitzer Prize,[1] and the 1960 World Press Photo award. Footage of the incident was also captured.[7]

Nobel Prize-winning author Kenzaburō Ōe based his 1961 novellas Seventeen and The Death of a Political Youth on Yamaguchi.[8]

In October 2010, right-wing groups celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of the assassination in Hibiya Park.[5]


  1. ^ a b Zelizer, Barbie (1 December 2010). About to Die:How News Images Move the Public. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 183–4. ISBN 0199752133. Retrieved 18 August 2012. 
  2. ^ "山口 二矢" [Otoya Yamaguchi]. Nihon Jinmei Daijiten (in Japanese). Tokyo: Shogakukan. 2012. Archived from the original on 25 August 2007. Retrieved 7 November 2012. 
  3. ^ "JAPAN: Assassin's Apologies". TIME Magazine. Time Inc. November 14, 1960. Retrieved June 11, 2010. 
  4. ^ "Using a traditional blade, 17-year-old Yamaguchi assassinates politician Asanuma in Tokyo, 1960". Rare Historical Photos. 27 November 2013. Retrieved 2 July 2018. 
  5. ^ a b Newton, Michael (17 April 2014). "Inejiro Asanuma (1898–1960)". Famous Assassinations in World History: An Encyclopedia. 2. ABC-CLIO. pp. 234–235. ISBN 978-1-61069-286-1. 
  6. ^ "四月廿九日 山口二矢及び筆保泰禎兩氏之墓參 於港區南青山「梅窓院」". Douketusya (in Japanese). 3 May 2013. Retrieved 2 July 2018. 
  7. ^ Inejiro Asanuma Assassination Footage (1960) (Digital video). YouTube.com (published May 18, 2006). October 12, 1960. Retrieved June 11, 2010. 
  8. ^ Weston, Mark (1999). Giants of Japan: The Lives of Japan’s Most Influential Men and Women. New York: Kodansha International. p. 295. ISBN 1-568362862. 

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