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Slain Tomioka shrine priestess got threatening letters, calls from younger brother

Nagako Tomioka, right, stands with yokozuna Kakuryu, center, and late Japan Sumo Association head Kitanoumi after a yokozuna name-engraving ceremony at Tomioka Hachimangu shrine, on Oct. 7, 2014, in Tokyo's Koto Ward. (Photo by Kiroku Tamura, Nipporen)

"I'm at a loss because I keep getting calls from my younger brother that seem like threats ..."

A stabbing incident that left two women dead, a man injured, and a suspected assailant dead by his own hand occurred at Tomioka Hachimangu shrine in Tokyo's Koto Ward on the evening of Dec. 7. The incident revealed the discord between the late chief priestess of the shrine, 58-year-old Nagako Tomioka, and her younger brother and former chief priest Shigenaga Tomioka, 56, who is suspected of killing her before killing himself. The burst of deadly violence has shocked shrine parishioners and local residents alike, but exactly what occurred at the Shinto shrine affectionately called "Fukagawa's Hachiman-sama"?

"I am accused of behaving badly, but it's nothing compared to my older sister," Shigenaga reportedly said to a parishioner in his 50s during a phone call around July of this year. While crying, Shigenaga is said to have spouted insults about the elder Tomioka.

Shigenaga Tomioka (Mainichi)

"He was speaking roughly, and he was in an emotionally erratic state," the man recalled.

Until May 2001, Shigenaga was the chief priest of Tomioka Hachimangu shrine, but gave up the position due to financial and other problems. Nagako became the chief priestess of the shrine after their father, the previous chief who had returned to the position after Shigenaga left, passed away.

According to a 70-year-old male parishioner, Shigenaga was resentful about having been forced to give up his position. Nagako would receive harassing letters and phone calls frequently from her brother. There was also an anonymous document criticizing Nagako that made its way around the area.

"Ms. Tomioka continued to send money to her brother even while having a hard time dealing with him. I can't believe something like this has happened," the man said. Tomioka had reportedly put her energy into building a slope on the shrine grounds for visitors who could not use the stairs, and into renovating the washrooms, all to improve Tomioka Hachimangu ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Another parishioner's shoulders slumped as they lamented, "She did so much good for us. What are we going to do for all the ceremonies during the year end and New Year period?"

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