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'I want to get married': an interview with the Japan 'Twitter killer' sentenced to death

The Tachikawa Detention House where Takahiro Shiraishi was interviewed and is currently being held, in the suburban city of Tachikawa, Tokyo, is seen on Dec. 16, 2020. (Mainichi/Kazuki Mogami)

Takahiro Shiraishi, 30, was handed the death penalty on Dec. 15 over a 2017 serial murder case in the Kanagawa prefecture city of Zama. The bodies of nine men and women were found in his apartment, and he was tried for robbery, forcible sexual intercourse and murder, among other crimes.

    On the morning of Dec. 16, Shiraishi spoke with a Mainichi Shimbun reporter in a face-to-face meeting at the Tachikawa Detention House in the Tokyo suburban city of Tachikawa, where he is being held. The following interview is a transcript of their conversation.

    Kazuki Mogami: Good morning.

    Takahiro Shiraishi: Good morning.

    KM: How does it feel the morning after the ruling?

    TS: (Smiling) It's no different than normal.

    KM: In that moment they handed down the sentence, how did you feel?

    TS: (Stretches back, his eyes closed) Well, to be honest, I wasn't thinking anything. I'd thought I might feel something. But to some strange extent, I didn't sweat, and my heart wasn't pounding or anything. I already knew full well what was coming.

    KM: You're calm about it.

    TS: My feelings haven't changed.

    KM: Have you spoken with your lawyers?

    TS: No, they've not come. I think they'll be here this week, but they'll probably say we should appeal; if they do I'm going to say I'm withdrawing.

    KM: Your thinking on not appealing hasn't changed?

    The apartment that Takahiro Shiraishi lived in, and in which the bodies of nine people were discovered, is seen in Zama, Kanagawa Prefecture, on Nov. 11, 2017, in this file image taken from a Mainichi Shimbun helicopter. (Mainichi/Daisuke Wada)

    TS: It hasn't.

    KM: After the ruling, your lawyers said they would decide what to do after discussions with you.

    TS: If I am consulted, I plan to say, "I won't appeal."

    KM: You're alright not fighting it?

    TS: (Smiling) It's the way it is now. I mean, it's not like I don't have any thoughts about it. But you know, it's been about two years now since the ban on my receiving visitors was lifted. But there's this thing you call "anniversary journalism" in your line of business, right? At those times, I get loads of people here. Apart from those landmark dates, almost no one comes to see me. So, extending that (the period he can be visited for would be prolonged if he appeals) seems pointless. So, now I want to meet a normal girl.

    KM: What do you mean?

    TS: I want to get married, is what I'm saying. If I do, she could see me even when I go to the Tokyo Detention House (where death row inmates are kept).

    KM: People on death row can also see their families, too.

    TS: Right. I want to look for someone who'll marry me while I'm in prison. Several people have come in the last two years, but nothing has led to marriage. I get these kinds of fan letters sometimes too, but there aren't many women who would become the kind of person to come and see me here. Also, I've read these letters so closely now, that I know which ones are sent as part of a plan by the weekly magazines and other places. (Laughs)

    KM: What are these plans?

    TS: You could say it's like the weekly magazines are trying to reel me in; the letters I get from those kinds of women generally come with paper and an envelope to write back to them with, and a postage stamp.

    KM: But you don't send letters back.

    TS: Right. If they got published in (weekly magazine) Bunshun, wouldn't it be embarrassing? Like I'd been used. So, if a letter or note by me ever does make it out into the wild, know that it's fake.

    KM: Why do you want to get married while in prison?

    TS: I was thinking it'd be good to have someone who supports me. She'd be able to come and see me here, and bring me things.

    KM: Do you feel lonely?

    TS: No, I don't feel anything like that now, but in case I did get lonely...

    KM: Is there a woman with whom you're talking about getting married or meeting here at the moment?

    TS: There is. There are two, actually, but they're connected to journalists. They've told me things like, "I looked you up online and I wasn't sure how I could meet you, so I got in touch with weekly magazines and freelance writers." What do you think? It almost sounds like a setup. (Laughs)

    KM: If you're going to file a marriage application within the appeals window, there's not a lot of time, is there?

    TS: Yeah, so I think it's not going to come together. None of the conversations I'm having with people are going anywhere certain anyway. So, I want to put the time I do have left to use finding a girl.

    KM: Am I the last journalist you're talking to?

    TS: Yeah, because a girl might be coming to see me.

    KM: In the more than a year that you and I have had these exchanges, I've felt like your ability to imagine other people's pain, to empathize with them, is minimal.

    TS: I might have told you this before, but the police officer who interrogated me said the same thing. He was like, "If you'd been a surgeon or a rescue worker, maybe you'd have been a big success." So I think it's like a gift. I had that kind of gift.

    KM: You mean you accept that?

    TS: Yeah. You (the interviewer) are busy, right, so I'm not saying you have to, but if you do come here to see me, if I've come to the conclusion it seems like there's no girl coming to see me, then on that day we'll meet. But you don't have to. What I mean is, today might be the last time. Thank you for everything. Take care of your health, don't catch corona, and keep on working hard and living your life.

    (Japanese original by Kazuki Mogami, City News Department)

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