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Family of Japanese care home massacre victims to demand Paralympic flame event cancellation

In this July 2020 file photo, a person lays flowers on an offering table at a ceremony marking the fourth anniversary of the massacre of 19 people at the Tsukui Yamayuri En care home in Sagamihara, Kanagawa Prefecture. (Mainichi/Daiki Takikawa)

SAGAMIHARA, Kanagawa -- Two family members of victims of the deadly July 2016 stabbing spree at a care home for people with disabilities here plan to demand a Tokyo Paralympic flame-lighting event scheduled at the facility be canceled.

    Nineteen residents of the Tsukui Yamayuri En care home in Sagamihara, Kanagawa Prefecture, south of Tokyo, were killed in the attack, and 26 were injured. The request to have the flame ceremony at the facility canceled is set to be filed with the prefectural and municipal governments on April 13 by two family members; the mother of 19-year-old murder victim Miho, and Takashi Ono, the 77-year-old father of Kazuya Ono, 48, who was seriously injured.

    "The wounds to our hearts have not yet healed. We feel uncomfortable with (holding) the lighting event as part of a festival," the pair have explained.

    Paralympic flame-lighting events are scheduled for spots around Japan starting on Aug. 12, after the Olympic closing ceremony. These flames will be brought together in Tokyo, with one from Stoke Mandeville, a town in southern England said to be the birthplace of the Paralympic movement, and brought to the National Stadium for the Tokyo Paralympic Games opening ceremony on Aug. 24.

    The Sagamihara Municipal Government officially announced its flame-lighting event at Tsukui Yamayuri En on March 31, to spread the message that "the massacre will never fade, but we will all work with the care home and citizens to build a society where we can all coexist without prejudice or discrimination," in line with the ideals of the Paralympics.

    However, the two family members have stated that the event "is of course uncomfortable for the families of the dead and injured, but also for many people in Japan to take place at the site where 19 people were murdered."

    According to the written request, the two family members learned of the event from the news on March 23, and that neither the prefecture nor the city had explained it to the families of the massacre victims in advance. They claim that they finally received written notice from the prefecture beginning in April.

    Sagamihara's Olympic and Paralympic promotion department head stated of the family members' cancelation request, "We will accept the feelings of those affected (by the massacre) with sincerity, and would like to explain our position once more."

    (Japanese original by Nao Ikeda, Yokohama Bureau)

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