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Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Ultranationalist
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: October 12, 1960
Date of arrest: Same day
Date of birth: February 22, 1943
Victim profile: Inejiro Asanuma (a politician and head of the Japan Socialist Party)
Method of murder: Stabbing with knife
Location: Tokyo, Japan
Status: Committed suicide by hanging in prison on November 2, 1960
photo gallery

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


Less than three weeks later, while being held in a juvenile detention facility, Yamaguchi mixed a small amount of tooth paste with water and wrote on his cell wall, "Seven lives for my country. Ten thousand years for 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.

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

Nobel Prize-winning author Kenzaburō Ōe based his 1961 novella "Seventeen" on Yamaguchi.


Assassin's Apologies

Monday, Nov. 14, 1960

In a bleak cell at a Tokyo juvenile detention home one night last week, a mop-haired teenager mixed a palmful of tooth powder with a few drops of water and scrawled a message on the wall: "Seven lives for my country. Ten thousand years for His Imperial Majesty, the Emperor!'' Then Otoya Yamaguchi, 17, tore his bed sheet into strips, knotted them into a rope, stood up on a toilet bowl and hanged himself from the light fixture in the ceiling. Yamaguchi, who last month stabbed Socialist Chairman Inejiro Asanuma to death at a political rally, had lived his bloody samurai tradition to the end. His suicide was an act of owabi—apology to those inconvenienced by his murder of Asanuma.

The Socialists have tried to make Yamaguchi one of the top issues in the current Japanese election campaign. They called him a "cat's paw of monopolistic capitalist forces" (by which they meant Premier Hayato Ikeda's ruling Liberal Democrats) and paraded Asanuma's widow about in hope of a sympathy vote. After Yamaguchi's hanged body was found, Saburo Eda, acting chairman of the Socialists, shifted his ground and growled: "The fact that an important criminal was able to commit suicide exposes the utter irresponsibility of the authorities in charge."

Dead or alive, Assassin Yamaguchi was not good for many votes. But, as a martyr, Yamaguchi might yet inspire fresh violence from the small but dangerous band of Japanese who share his fanatical right-wing views and uphold the prewar tradition of political assassination. Last week a group of them went to the jail, presented the boy's parents with a burial coat, kimono and belt, then escorted the body of their hero home.


Inejiro Asanuma (浅沼稲次郎 Asanuma Inejirō, December 27, 1898 - October 12, 1960) was a Japanese politician, and head of the Japanese Socialist Party. Inejiro was noted for speaking publicly about Socialism and economic and cultural opportunities. His left-wing positions and criticism of the United States were not welcomed by conservatives. He was assassinated by 17-year-old Otoya Yamaguchi, an extreme rightist, at a televised rally for the upcoming Lower-house election.

Private life and public perception

Inejiro Asanuma's mother died during his birth, leaving him to be raised by his father, who later died at the age of 42 of cancer. He was known for his gentle heart and frugal lifestyle, living in a small apartment with his family. He was given nicknames meaning "speech-making farmer" and "human locomotive" because of his huge body, loud voice and energetic manner of speaking. However, his genuine and natural personality won him great popularity among workers and grassroots. The nation was shocked to see him assassinated and national demonstrations and protests followed. With his death, the Japanese Socialist Party further divided between politicians on the left and right.



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