Shinichiro Azuma (Sakakibara Seito), the Kobe Child Killer

Sakakibara Seito was a serial killer who had children as his victims, killing them in cruel ways and terrifying Japan.

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The Kobe child murders was a series of crimes that occurred in Japan in 1997. The perpetrator was Sakakibara Seito, a teenage serial killer who aimed to kill children, including those with special needs, which he referred to as “vegetables.”

His real name was Shinichiro Azuma, but during police investigations he sent letters identifying himself as Sakakibara Seito. He is also called “Boy A” by the official Japanese documents.

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The murders in Kobe begin

In February 1997 two young girls are attacked with hammer blows while walking in the street. The crime was committed by an unidentified boy in an area near an elementary school in Kobe. The girls were badly injured but managed to escape and survived the attack. However, the police were unable to identify the perpetrator of the attack at the time.

Then, in March of the same year, Ayaka Yamashita, only ten years old, was beaten by an unidentified boy. She was taken to the hospital, but died. The weapon used by the perpetrator was either a hammer or an iron bar, sources differ on this point.

That same day, he attacked another people, this time a nine year old girl. The weapon used was a knife, where he strucked her in the abdomen. Luckily, the victim managed to survive and recovered fully from the aggression.

Two months later, in May, 11-year-old Jun Hase disappeared in front of the elementary school where he was studying. Jun was a student in the special needs class. Days later his head was found in the back of the school. In his mouth was a note written in Japanese.

This is the beginning of the game… Try to stop me if you can you stupid police… I desperately want to see people die, it is a thrill for me to commit murder. A bloody judgment is needed for my years of great bitterness.

The perpetrator wrote.

During the text he called himself a “School Killer” and the letter was signed with the name Sakakibara Seito.

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Letter written by Sakakibara Seito. Photo: Reproduction.

A school employee, who found Jun’s head, said he found two cats dead and with their paws torn off, just a week earlier. The bodies of the animals were also discarded at the school.

When publishing the case in the media, a local journalist mistook his name and called him Onibara. This angered Sakakibara, who sent another note to the police, this time the letter was much longer and had an angry tone.

(…) From now on, if you misread my name or spoil my mood I will kill three vegetables a week. If you think I can only kill children you are greatly mistaken.

An excerpt from the letter sent by Sakakibara, where he referred to special needs children as “vegetables”.

Then people began to wonder if the killer hated children with disabilities, and if so, why.

When the suspect is a minor, it is common for Japanese police to release almost no details about the investigation. This was the case with Sakakibara Seito. Because of this law, very little is known about how the investigators profiled and managed to get to the boy.

The Sakakibara Seito Prison

On June 28 of the same year he was arrested, to everyone’s surprise he was just an ordinary 14-year-old teenager. His real name was Shinichiro Azuma, but because of his age the media was not allowed to expose his name and picture. So he was referred to as “Boy A”.

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As soon as he was arrested he confessed to the crimes. In Shinichiro’s house were found several magazines of adult material, inappropriate videos and manga involving blood and violence.

When questioned, the boy’s mother said she didn’t know he had all this stuff, but the police didn’t believe her, since all these materials were scattered around the room. Anyone who entered his room would see it.

A diary was also found, in which the boy referred to the killings as “sacred events”. He even seemed to celebrate that he hadn’t been caught until that moment.

Youth detention center

Because he was only fourteen years old, the boy could not be tried as an adult. At the time, this caused much discussion and indignation among the Japanese population, since his actions were so evil.

Because of this, he served a six-year sentence in a youth detention center and was then paroled. For some years he had to notify the police of his whereabouts, and the victims’ families were also notified when he was around.

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According to Japanese law, for having committed the crimes as children, he has earned the right to a new name and a fresh start in life.

Autobiography of Shinichiro Azuma

In 2015 he released his autobiography, in a book called “Zekka,” which sold 100,000 copies in the first three weeks. The families of the victims tried to ban the sale of this book, but they were unsuccessful and the book is still sold.

Therefore, everything that is known about Shinichiro Azuma’s childhood and background is somewhat dubious, since it was told by himself.

In the book he wrote details about the crimes he committed, the time he spent in reform school, and also his childhood.

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Juliane Cunha

Brazilian, 27 years old, working in the health field. I love writing and I also love criminal cases, nothing better than combining business with pleasure. Follow me on Instagram @julianesantt | @casocriminal_