Police: 3 die after sword attack near famed shrine in Tokyo
December 8, 2017 at 17:30 JST
Though I am not in the habit of posting news stories on this blog, I felt I needed to be a bit more timely with this one. All though the facts are not all known, it is obviously a great tragedy. It has all the more meaning for me as I have featured this important shrine in my book and have spent many hours on the grounds and interviewed one of the negi for the book. I would like to extend my deepest sympathies to the family and parishioners, and encourage any readers of this blog to visit this historic shrine and its magnificent festival. For details, please see Shinto Shrines: A Guide to the Sacred Sites of Japan's Ancient Religion
Reporters gather near the Tomioka Hachimangu shrine early on Dec. 8 after a murder-suicide incident occurred there several hours earlier. (Takayuki Kakuno)
|Shigenaga Tomioka, accused murderer, now deceased|
|Nagako Tomioka, former guji, now deceased|
|Tomioka Hachimangu, at bottom|
One of those killed was Nagako Tomioka, 58, chief priest at Tomioka Hachimangu shrine in Koto Ward.
She was stabbed in the back of her head as well as chest in an ambush perpetrated by her younger brother, Shigenaga, 56, and a woman, according to the Metropolitan Police Department.
Police later on Dec. 8 confirmed the woman was Shigenaga’s 49-year-old wife, Mariko.
After the attack on Nagako, Shigenaga fatally stabbed his wife in the chest and abdomen and then committed suicide by turning his sword on himself.
His body was found with wounds to the left chest and abdomen.
Police suspect Shigenaga remained bitter about being fired as chief priest of Tomioka Hachimangu in 2001. His older sister later took over the post.
According to investigative sources, Shigenaga was arrested and indicted in January 2006 on charges of threatening his sister with postcards that said, “I will kill you,” among other things.
According to Tokyo police, Nagako was driven to her home within the shrine grounds after a meeting with local police officers.
Police said Shigenaga and his wife were hiding by a nearby building.
After the car parked and Nagako got out, Shigenaga attacked his sister with a sword with a blade about 80 centimeters long, according to security camera footage. The time of the attack was 8:25 p.m.
The 33-year-old chauffeur, who had also gotten out of the vehicle, fled the scene but was chased for about 100 meters by Mariko. She slashed his right arm with a sword with a blade about 45 cm long.
He was listed in serious condition, but his injuries were not life-threatening.
Shigenaga then stabbed his wife in front of Nagako’s home before killing himself, the video footage showed. A sword broken in half was found near Nagako’s body. A shorter sword and two knives were discovered near Shigenaga’s body.
According to people who knew the siblings, they were close as young children and often played together at the shrine, which hosts one of the three largest festivals in Tokyo.
Their father served as chief priest until Shigenaga took over.
However, he was suddenly fired in 2001, and several sources said his financial problems likely led in part to his dismissal. A classmate of Shigenaga recalled that he enjoyed a flashy lifestyle.
The father resumed as chief priest before eventually giving the post to Nagako.
After Shigenaga was fired, Nagako consulted with police the following year and said there were problems within the family about the chief priest position.
Police are now looking into the possibility that other recent problems may have triggered the attack.
A shrine member in his 50s recalled a phone call from Shigenaga in July. Over about 40 minutes, Shigenaga laid out his complaints about his sister and the shrine.
“He occasionally broke out crying or began shouting, and I felt that he was emotionally unstable,” the man said.
A woman in her 70s who is a member of the shrine and knew the siblings said the two had argued over money even before Shigenaga was dismissed as head priest.
From five to 10 years ago, shrine members received anonymous letters that criticized Nagako.
“I was always worried that something like this might occur someday, but it is still a huge shock,” the woman said.
Tomioka Hachimangu shrine was established in the early Edo Period (1603-1867) and grew in popularity under the sponsorship of the Tokugawa Shogunate.
The shrine is closely linked with sumo, and several statues erected on the shrine grounds are related to the sport.
Sword-wielding ex-priest warned shrine about his ‘vengeful ghost’
THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
December 10, 2017 at 17:55 JST
Bloodstains remain at the entrance of a building near Tomioka Hachimangu shrine in Tokyo’s Koto Ward on Dec. 8. (Kazuyoshi Sako)
A brother who killed his sister with a sword had demanded that officials of a famed shrine in Tokyo dismiss her as chief priest or else he would “haunt” them as a “vengeful ghost.”
The warning came in a letter received by officials and representatives of shrine parishioners on Dec. 9, two days after the brother fatally stabbed his sister and wife before committing suicide at Tomioka Hachimangu shrine in Koto Ward.
The letter, written by Shigenaga Tomioka, 56, described the trouble he had had with his sister, Nagako, 58, over the years and other matters, according to people familiar with the letter.
The letter, written on eight A-4 size pages, bore a signature that is believed to be his, as well as a postmark showing that it had been dropped off in Tokyo’s Ueno district.
Police believe Shigenaga posted the letter before he went on the rampage on the night of Dec. 7.
In the letter, Shigenaga, who had been fired as chief priest of the Shinto shrine in 2001, argued that Nagako’s character was not worthy of the position. He demanded that she be expelled from the shrine and that his son be named chief priest.
“I am going to haunt you by becoming a vengeful ghost after my death if my demands are not met,” the brother warned in his letter.
Shigenaga and his wife, Mariko, 49, ambushed Nagako near her home on the shrine grounds with swords. Mariko also slashed Nagako’s driver, who suffered serious but non-life threatening injuries.
Shigenaga then fatally stabbed his wife and killed himself.
Police suspect the brother continued to harbor resentment over being fired as chief priest of Tomioka Hachimangu, according to investigative sources.
The siblings’ father, Okinaga, was chief priest of the shrine. But Shigenaga began serving as acting chief priest in November 1994, after his father became ill and was admitted to a hospital the previous month, Toshiji Sato, a lawyer representing the shrine, told a news conference on Dec. 9.
Shigenaga was promoted to chief priest in March 1995.
However, Okinaga resumed the role and fired his son as chief priest in May 2001, after his problems with women and money became a big issue within the family since 1999, according to Sato.
When Shigenaga stepped down, he apologized to family members, shrine officials and representatives of shrine parishioners for causing problems. He also promised “not to cause any trouble afterward.”
The family paid him a retirement fee for stepping down and offered financial support.
Both sides agreed that the monetary support would be terminated if he breached his promise not to cause problems.
But Shigenaga was arrested and fined for sending a menacing letter to his father and shrine officials in 2006. Nagako had reported the letter to police, and he started condemning his sister around this time, according to Sato.
Nagako was named chief priest when her father stepped down in October 2010. Okinaga died in July 2012.
With unanimous backing from shrine officials and parishioner representatives, the shrine proposed Nagako’s appointment to the Association of Shinto Shrines, an influential organization of which Tomioka Hachimangu was a member. The association rejected the proposal.
The shrine sought the association’s approval in June 2013, but again the request was not granted.
When Tomioka Hachimangu made its fourth request for approval of Nagako as chief priest in March this year, it came to light that a letter denigrating Nagako had been delivered to the association.
The letter was sent under the name of Shigenaga’s wife.
Sato believed that Shigenaga played a role in the letter. He said he sent a letter dated April 25 to the brother, warning him against such behavior. On May 29, a board of senior officials at Tomioka Hachimangu adopted a resolution to leave the association. Sato said he was entrusted to take care of procedures following Nagako’s decision to withdraw the shrine’s membership.
The lawyer said he also interviewed Nagako about details of how and why she took the post.
In late June, Shigenaga started denouncing senior shrine officials and some representatives of parishioners over the resolution. It was also learned that he made phone calls that slandered his sister.
Sato said he sent another letter to Shigenaga, dated July 10, warning him to end his series of harassment. The brother was living in Fukuoka Prefecture at the time.
The harassment ended, procedures to leave the association were completed, and Nagako and people involved in shrine affairs had developed a sense of relief.
Shigenaga killed his sister on Dec. 7. “We could have taken measures to respond if new harassment had taken place,” Sato said. “I am sorry about the attack.”
Shigenaga also apparently created problems for others after he moved to Fukuoka Prefecture from Tokyo several years ago. Neighbors in the prefecture in Kyushu said disputes erupted between Shigenaga and local residents over his car’s parking space and other issues. “I had not seen his car for several months, so I assumed that he had gone somewhere else,” a woman in the neighborhood said.