Japan recently suffered its “worst mass killing since World War II.” Breaking in to his former place of employment in the dead of night, a 26-year-old Japanese man stabbed dozens of people while they slept. He killed 19 and wounded two dozen other sleeping people who lived at the Tsukui Yamayuri-En facility for mentally and physically disabled people. Breaking in to the facility in the middle of the night, the perpetrator went door to door stabbing his victims one at a time. With strict gun control laws, possession of firearms is relatively low in Japan, and stabbings are a more common method of homicide than gunfire.
There is still conflicting evidence of what motivated the perpetrator (who turned himself in an was arrested). Speculation that he was enacting revenge for having been fired recently seems to be crumbling under evidence that he was euthanizing disabled people. Apparently he had written a letter a few months ago to the Japanese parliament expressing his opinion that the government should permit euthanasia for disabled people. (Attacking sleeping people with a knife doesn’t exactly seem to be humane, which is part of the definition of euthanasia.) Whether the perpetrator actively disliked disabled people (as has been suggested in an article by the New York Times), was mentally disturbed himself, or truly believed that he was acting humanely to end the lives of disabled people, the fact is that he carried out a gruesome mass killing.
We talk a lot about workplace violence on this blog, and this is an example of workplace violence. We often talk about the four types of workplace violence: Type I is violence committed by criminals who have no connection to the workplace; Type II is violence directed at employees by customers, clients, patients, students, inmates; Type III is violence directed at employees by present or former employees: Type IV is violence directed at an employee by someone with a personal relationship with the victim. The incident in Japan seems to be the third type of workplace violence, where the violence was perpetrated by a former employee.
Workplace violence is not just an American problem. Even in a society that eschews civilian possession of firearms, mass killings can still occur. While it is still unclear how significant or serious the warning signs were, it is important that employers and employees educate themselves about workplace violence. Whether or not this particular incident could have been avoided if the warning signs had been taken more seriously, this incident can serve as a reminder that workplace violence is a serious issue that should be addressed at all places of work.