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Victims of mass murder at Japan care home remembered on 5th anniv.

This photo shows Kanagawa Gov. Yuji Kuroiwa offering flowers on July 26, 2021, at a cenotaph set up at the site of a care home near Tokyo to remember victims of a 2016 mass murder there. (Kyodo)

YOKOHAMA (Kyodo) -- Bereaved families and local officials remembered Monday the victims of a stabbing rampage at a care home for the mentally disabled near Tokyo five years ago that became one of Japan's worst mass murders.

    Kanagawa Gov. Yuji Kuroiwa and Kazuma Otsuki, who heads a group formed by the families of victims, offered flowers at a cenotaph on the grounds of Tsukui Yamayuri En, where a former employee killed 19 residents and injured 24 others, on July 26, 2016. Two employees were also hurt.

    The home has been rebuilt and is due to accept back residents there next Sunday.

    "We must build a society where everyone can live together by gaining energy from (the determination) that such a tragic accident should not be repeated," Kuroiwa told reporters at the site in Sagamihara, Kanagawa Prefecture.

    The former employee, care worker Satoshi Uematsu, 31, is on death row with his death sentence having been finalized in March last year after he withdrew his appeal. He said during his trial that disabled people who are unable to communicate "create unhappiness in society."

    The cenotaph bears the names of seven of the people killed in the rampage after the prefectural government gained approval from their families. Out of fear of facing discrimination, many families are reluctant to reveal the victims' names.

    The seven include Miho, a 19-year-old girl whose family wished to reveal only her first name, and 49-year-old Toshikazu Yamamoto.

    "I am dying to meet Miho," said the victim's mother in a statement released through her lawyer.

    The parents of one of the survivors, Kazuya Ono, 48, who suffered serious injuries in the attack, also visited the site to pay their respects.

    "These five years have passed rather quickly. Although there were some tough and tormenting incidents, I want to continue" conveying what happened so that the incident is not forgotten, said the survivor's father Takashi Ono, 77. His son now lives alone at an apartment with the help of 15 care workers.

    A 48-year-old former worker at the care home recalled that some of the victims had not been able to speak and used to express their feelings with gestures. "The deceased people taught me many things. I want to convey (to the public) that everyone's life has meaning."

    Kazuko Iwamura, a 60-year-old member of a local group of people with disabilities, said, "We are humans. We can't forgive (Uematsu) and let this incident be forgotten."

    Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato expressed "heartfelt condolences" to the victims at a press conference Monday, saying, "It is important to realize a society where all people can coexist without discrimination or prejudice."

    The Kanagawa prefectural government has decided to build a new care home at the site of the facility and another in the city of Yokohama, and begin admission of the residents there next Sunday and Dec. 1, respectively.

    The survivors of the attack, who have been staying at temporary facilities, will enter the newly built homes or group homes.

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