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) 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.Reactions to the incident have included Internet memes and a discussion of lowering the age of criminal responsibility 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 utility knife.
The killer’s real name has not been released to the press, as per Japanese legal procedures prohibiting the identification of juvenile offenders. Japanese police referred to her as “Girl A.” The Nagasaki District Legal Affairs Bureau cautioned internet users against their revealing her photos.
On June 1, 2004, the 11-year-old schoolgirl murdered her 12-year-old classmate, Satomi Mitarai, in an empty classroom during the lunch hour at Okubo Elementary School in Sasebo.She then left Mitarai’s body and returned to her own classroom, her clothes covered in blood.The girls’ teacher, who had noticed that both were missing, found the body and called the police.
After being taken into custody, she was reported to have confessed to the crime, saying “I am sorry, I am sorry” to police. She spent the night at the police station, often crying, and refused to eat snacks she was offered. She initially mentioned no motive for the killing. Shortly afterward, she confessed to police that she and Mitarai had quarreled as a result of messages left on the Internet. She claimed that Mitarai slandered her by commenting on her weight and calling her a “goody-goody”.
On September 15, 2004, a Japanese Family Court ruled to institutionalize her, putting aside her young age because of the severity of the crime. She was sent to a reformatory in Tochigi Prefecture. The Nagasaki family court in 2004 originally sentenced her to two years of involuntary commitment, but the sentence was extended by two years in September 2006. On May 29, 2008, local authorities announced that they did not seek an additional sentence. Because of issues with communication ability and obsessive interests, the girl was diagnosed after the murder with Asperger syndrome.
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. The killer was considered to be a normal and well-adjusted child before the incident, which made the public more anxious. Members of the Japanese Diet, such as Kiichi Inoue and Sadakazu Tanigaki, came under criticism for comments made in the wake of the killing. Inoue was criticized for referring to Girl A as Genki (vigorous, lively), a word with positive connotations. Sadakazu Tanigaki was criticized for referring to the method of killing, slitting of the throat, as a “manly” act. The killer 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.
Akio Mori cited this case in support of his controversial “game brain” theory, which has been criticized as being nothing more than superstition.[ The killer was reported to be a fan of the death-themed flash animation “Red Room”, a claim used in support of the theory. It was also known that she had read the controversial novel Battle Royale and had seen its film adaptation, which centers on young students fighting to the death.
On March 18, 2005, Okubo Elementary graduation, students have given a graduation album with a blank page in honor of Mitarai’s death on which they could put pictures of Mitarai who was murdered, Girl A the killer, or class pictures containing both girls, Mitarai was posthumously awarded a graduation certificate, which her father accepted on her behalf. The killer 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”.
- Nevada tan
“The Sasebo slashing”
Characteristics: Juvenile (11) – Argument over messages left on the Internet
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: June 1, 2004
Date of arrest: Same day
Date of birth: 1992
Victim profile: Satomi Mitarai, 12 (her classmate)
Method of murder: Slitting her throat and arms with a box cutter
Location: Sasebo, Nagasaki Prefecture, Japan
Status: Sentenced to two years of involuntary commitment and sent to a reformatory on September 15, 2004. Sentenced to an additional two years of involuntary commitment in September 2006. Nevada-tan is the name commonly used to describe an 11-year-old Japanese schoolgirl who was charged with murdering her classmate Satomi Mitarai. The murder occurred on June 1, 2004, at an elementary school in Sasebo, Japan, and involved the slitting of Mitarai’s throat and arms with a box cutter. It has come to be known as the “Sasebo Slashing”. The un-named killer has since become an Internet meme cartoon character. The cartoon began to appear on the Internet shortly after images of the suspected murderer were published showing her wearing a pullover hooded sweatshirt with the word “NEVADA” emblazoned across the chest (the “-tan” suffix is a variation on “-chan”, a children’s honorific, while the sweatshirt is commonly worn by fans of the University of Nevada and its sports teams).
Her real name has not been released to the press, as per Japanese legal procedures prohibiting the identification of juvenile offenders, and she is officially referred to as “Girl A” in Japanese legal documentation. However, members of the Japanese internet community 2channel made public her real name on June 18, 2004, based on an analysis of a picture broadcast on Japanese television; the broadcaster, Fuji Television, may have inadvertently done this as well.
The “Sasebo Slashing”
The 11-year-old schoolgirl murdered her 12-year-old classmate, Satomi Mitarai, in an empty classroom during the lunch hour at Okubo Elementary School in Sasebo. “Girl A” left Mitarai’s body at the murder scene and returned to her own classroom, her clothes covered in blood. The girls’ teacher, who had noticed that both were missing, found the body and called the police. After being taken into custody, “Girl A” was reported as confessing to the crime, saying “I have done a bad thing” and “I am sorry, I am sorry” to the police, though she initially gave no motive for the killing. Shortly afterward, “Girl A” confessed to police that she and Mitarai had fallen out as a result of messages left on the Internet. 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. “Girl A” was sent to a reformatory in Tochigi prefecture; coincidentally, six months before, the same reformatory had released the (at the time) teenage killer known as Sakakibara.
Analysis of “Girl A”
While news reports state that there were negative comments left on “Girl A”‘s website by Mitarai (specifically that she was “heavy,” i.e. overweight) which may have been the immediate motive for the murder, investigation has shed more light on the issue. A police psychologist stated that “Girl A” was not mentally ill, and already had a history of violent incidents, from punching and kicking other classmates, to an issue with a knife the month before the murder.
There is some public speculation that “Girl A” may be suffering from (and does fit some of the classic symptoms of) hikikomori syndrome, but as of the present, no medical examiners have declared such. “Girl A” was also showing signs of withdrawing from social life, including quitting clubs, although she continued to play physical sports, particularly basketball, until shortly before the incident.
It appears that “Girl A” was heavily influenced by some of the more visceral aspects of Internet culture. An analysis of the case states that she “was a girl fascinated with urban legend, internet subculture, even going as far as guro. From her site she had linked shock flash movies and bizarre ASCII movies that would unnerve even the most hardened internet warriors.” Her website showcased her interests, which included fan fiction about her favorite film, Battle Royale, and strange “recipes” (with names like “Curse of the Purple Skull” and “Demonic Art”). A particularly strong influence was the “Red Room” horror flash video, around which she based the site’s design.
The aftermath of the “Girl A” incident
The murder sparked an ongoing debate in Japan about whether the age of criminal responsibility, shifted from 16 to 14 in 2000 due to the 1997 Sakakibara murders in Kobe, needed to be shifted again. It also raised questions regarding the exposure of young children to the Internet, and the effect of the Internet and hikikomori subculture on youth in Japan. Members of the Japanese Diet came under heavy criticism for comments made in the wake of the killing, such as then-Finance Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki claiming that throat-cutting was a “manly” crime. A Battle Royale fansite Battleroyalefilm.net reported that the creators of the sequel postponed the release of the DVD (originally scheduled for June 9, 2004, a week after the killing) to later that year due to “current events.”
In the March 18, 2005, Okubo Elementary graduation, students were given a graduation album with a blank page, should the students decide to place pictures of Mitarai and “Girl A,” or class pictures containing both, on them. The school announced that photos would be made available upon request. The photos were taken securely to the school, and destroyed after prints were made; there was some speculation that this was due to “Girl A”‘s Internet fame as Nevada.
“Girl A”‘s Internet popularity
For reasons not fully determined, the Japanese web communities, primarily Futaba Channel and 2channel, fixated on this story and “adopted” the girl. Her personal website’s popularity suddenly rocketed, and when it was taken down, mirrors were established. Copies of her artwork began circulating around the web, with other artists creating variations on the originals. Fan songs, such as “Cutie Nevada” appeared. The Nevada-tan character is often depicted with short brown hair, the trademark pullover, and a crazed, murderous smile. She is rarely seen without a box cutter or other sharp implement nearby. A common representation of Nevada-tan is as ASCII art, similar to Giko, Mona, etc. She is often depicted as slashing idiotic posters on the 2channel boards. Inevitably, this spilled over into 4chan and from there to other English language imageboards, introducing Nevada-tan to the United States and the rest of the world.
It does not appear as though the existence of Nevada-tan or other aspects of the subculture surrounding the “Girl A” incident is intended to condone or lend support to the real girl’s actions; it is simply another meme, albeit one with a basis in real life. It could also simply be an expression of morbid public fascination about a shocking and grisly event, just like the continuing interest in the English Jack the Ripper killings of 1888.