Sasebo slashing

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The "Sasebo slashing" (Japanese: 佐世保小6女児同級生殺害事件, Hepburn: Sasebo shōroku joji dōkyūsei satsugai jiken),[1] also known as the Nevada-tan murder, was the murder of a 12-year-old Japanese schoolgirl, Satomi Mitarai (御手洗 怜美, Mitarai Satomi), by an 11-year-old female classmate referred to as "Girl A"[2] (Girl A being a common pseudonym used for juvenile girls involved in criminal cases in Japan). The murder occurred on June 1, 2004, at an elementary school in the city of Sasebo in Nagasaki Prefecture. The murderer slit Mitarai's throat and arms with a box cutter.[3]

Reactions to the incident included Internet memes and a discussion of lowering the age of criminal responsibility in Japan. The killer's name has not been released to the press (but it was accidentally revealed), as per Japanese legal procedures prohibiting the identification of juvenile offenders.[4] The Nagasaki District Legal Affairs Bureau cautioned Internet users against revealing her photos.[5] However, the girl's name, Natsumi Tsuji,[clarification needed] was accidentally revealed on a Fuji TV broadcast, and members of Japanese Internet community 2channel publicized her identity on June 18, 2004, based on analysis of a picture broadcast on television.[6][7]


Okubo Elementary School where the incident took place (pictured on March 11, 2011)

On June 1, 2004, an 11-year-old schoolgirl, later dubbed "Girl A", murdered her 12-year-old classmate, Satomi Mitarai, in an empty classroom during the lunch hour at Okubo Elementary School in Sasebo, Nagasaki Prefecture.[8] Girl A returned to her classroom, her clothes covered in blood.[9] The girls' teacher, who had noticed that both girls were missing, stumbled upon the body and called the police.[10]

After being taken into custody, Girl A was reported to have confessed to the crime, saying "I am sorry, I am sorry" to police.[11] She spent the night at the police station, often crying, and refused to eat. Girl A initially mentioned no motive for the killing.[12] Shortly afterward, she confessed to police that she and Mitarai had quarreled as a result of messages left on the Internet.[13] Girl A claimed that Mitarai slandered her[14] by commenting on her weight and calling her a "goody-goody".

On September 15, 2004, a Japanese Family Court ruled to institutionalize Girl A, putting aside her young age because of the severity of the crime.[15] She was sent to a reformatory in Tochigi Prefecture.[16] The Nagasaki family court originally sentenced Girl A to two years of involuntary commitment, but the sentence was extended by two years in September 2006, following a psychological evaluation.[17] On May 29, 2008, local authorities announced that they did not seek an additional sentence.[18]

A reformatory in Tochigi Prefecture where "Girl A" was institutionalized

Because of issues with communication ability and obsessive interests, Girl A was diagnosed after the murder with Asperger syndrome.[19]


The killing provoked a debate in Japan whether the age of criminal responsibility, lowered from 16 to 14 in 2000 due to the 1997 Kobe child murders, needed to be lowered again.[20] Girl A was considered to be a normal and well-adjusted child before the incident,[21] which made the public more anxious.[22]

Members of the Japanese Diet, such as Kiichi Inoue and Sadakazu Tanigaki, came under criticism for comments made in the wake of the killing.[23] Inoue was criticized for referring to Girl A as genki (vigorous, lively), a word with positive connotations.[24] Tanigaki was criticized for referring to the method of killing, slitting of the throat, as a "manly" act.[25]

Girl A became the subject of an Internet meme on Japanese web communities such as 2channel. She was nicknamed "Nevada-tan" because a class photograph showed a girl believed to be her wearing a University of Nevada, Reno sweatshirt,[26] "-tan" being a childlike pronunciation of the Japanese honorific suffix "-chan," generally used to refer to young girls.

Akio Mori cited this case in support of his controversial "game brain" theory,[27] which has been criticized as being nothing more than superstition.[28] Girl A was reported to be a fan of the death-themed flash animation "Red Room",[29] a claim used in support of the theory. It was also known that Girl A had read the controversial novel Battle Royale and had seen its film adaptation, which centers on young students fighting to the death.[30]

At the March 18, 2005, Okubo Elementary graduation, students were given a graduation album with a blank page in honor of Mitarai's death on which they could put pictures of Mitarai, Girl A, or class pictures containing both girls.[31] Mitarai was posthumously awarded a graduation certificate, which her father accepted on her behalf. Girl A was also awarded a certificate, as one is required in Japan in order to enter junior high school and the school believed it would aid her "reintegration into society".[32]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Japanese schoolgirl kills classmate". The Sydney Morning Herald. June 2, 2004. Retrieved June 6, 2008.
  2. ^ Yamaguchi, Mari (June 2, 2004). "Japanese girl accused of killing classmate". The Independent. London. Retrieved June 24, 2008.
  3. ^ "Girl says internet spat prompted slaying". China Daily. June 4, 2004. Retrieved June 23, 2008.
  4. ^ "Japanese girl stabbed to death in school". China Daily. June 2, 2004. Retrieved June 6, 2008.
  5. ^ ネットに加害女児の顔、名前 長崎地方法務局が削除要請. Nagasaki Shimbun (in Japanese). June 3, 2004. Archived from the original on June 5, 2004. Retrieved June 23, 2008. Internet Archive copy.
  6. ^ Satō, Haruto (2005). Hanzai Kogal. 2005. pp. 11, 46, 29.CS1 maint: location (link)
  7. ^ ネットに加害女児の顔、名前 長崎地方法務局が削除要請. Nagasaki Shimbun (in Japanese). June 3, 2004. Archived from the original (Internet Archive copy) on June 5, 2004. Retrieved June 23, 2008.
  8. ^ "Sixth-grader kills her classmate, 12". The Japan Times. June 2, 2004. Retrieved June 23, 2008.
  9. ^ "Japanese girl, 11, cuts friend's throat". The Age. June 2, 2004. Retrieved June 23, 2008.
  10. ^ "Japanese Girl Fatally Stabs A Classmate". The New York Times. June 2, 2004. Retrieved June 23, 2008.
  11. ^ "Japan stunned by schoolgirl crime". CNN. June 2, 2004. Retrieved June 23, 2008.
  12. ^ "Japanese girl, 11, kills classmate by slitting her throat". Scotland on Sunday. June 2, 2004. Archived from the original on July 5, 2008. Retrieved June 24, 2008.
  13. ^ "Japan in shock at school murder". BBC News. June 2, 2004. Retrieved September 19, 2007.
  14. ^ Brooke, James (June 3, 2004). "Internet Messages Cited In Girl's Killing". The New York Times. Retrieved June 23, 2008.
  15. ^ "An 11-year-old Japanese girl to be placed in juvenile center over classmate's slaying". Boston Herald. Associated Press. September 15, 2004. Archived from the original on May 4, 2006. Retrieved September 19, 2007.
  16. ^ "11-year-old killer institutionalized". The Japan Times. September 25, 2004. Retrieved June 23, 2008.
  17. ^ "Girl who fatally stabbed classmate to have freedom restrictions lifted". Mainichi Daily News. May 29, 2008. Retrieved June 6, 2008.[dead link]
  18. ^ "Father of murdered Sasebo girl speaks on lifting of attacker's freedom restrictions". Mainichi Daily News. May 30, 2008. Retrieved June 6, 2008.[dead link]
  19. ^ Kusanagi, Atsuko (November 24, 2005). "第七章 「コミュニケーション能力」と「エピローグ」" [Chapter 7: "Communication Ability" and "Epilogue"]. 追跡!「佐世保小六女児同級生殺害事件」 [Tracked down! (The case of the Homicide Committed by a Sasebo Elementary Grade 6 Girl Against Her Classmate)] (in Japanese). Japan: Kodansha. pp. 93–110, 214–228. ISBN 4-06-213041-6.
  20. ^ Watson, Nicholas (June 21, 2004). "Violent crime prompts debate over age of legal responsibility in Japan". Publique!. Retrieved September 19, 2007.
  21. ^ "Japan stunned by schoolgirl stabbing". The Daily Telegraph. London. June 2, 2004. Retrieved June 23, 2008.
  22. ^ Faiola, Anthony (August 9, 2004). "Youth Violence Has Japan Struggling for Answers - 11-Year-Old's Killing of Classmate Puts Spotlight on Sudden Acts of Rage". The Washington Post. p. A01. Archived from the original on May 3, 2013. Retrieved June 22, 2012.
  23. ^ "Japan killing comments spark row". BBC News. June 4, 2004. Retrieved June 23, 2008.
  24. ^ "School slaying a sign of gender equality: minister". Taipei Times. June 5, 2004. Retrieved June 23, 2008.
  25. ^ "Ministers told to watch their mouths". The Japan Times. June 12, 2004. Retrieved June 6, 2008.
  26. ^ "Nevada-tan". Know Your Meme. Retrieved April 19, 2018.
  27. ^ "Using computers for long hours may prompt children to behave violently, neurologists says". Medical News Today. June 23, 2004. Retrieved February 7, 2008.
  28. ^ "川島 隆太 氏 インタビュー「道を拓く- Frontiers -」" (in Japanese). Science Portal. Retrieved May 31, 2008.
  29. ^ 殺害手口、参考の可能性 ネットの物語掲載サイト. Nagasaki Shimbun (in Japanese). June 9, 2004. Archived from the original on June 18, 2004. Retrieved June 23, 2008. Wayback Machine copy.
  30. ^ "Japan schoolgirl killer 'sorry'". BBC News. June 3, 2004. Archived from the original on February 13, 2007. Retrieved January 12, 2007.
  31. ^ "Murdered girl's classmates get blank page for killer in graduation album". Mainichi Daily News. March 18, 2005. Archived from the original on April 12, 2005. Retrieved March 25, 2006.
  32. ^ "Slain Sasebo girl awarded posthumous graduation". The Japan Times. March 18, 2005. Archived from the original on July 5, 2008. Retrieved June 23, 2008.

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