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Old classmate regrets not being able to help 'super diligent' accused Abe shooter

A man looks at a high school album as he talks about his memories with his former classmate Tetsuya Yamagami on July 29, 2022. (Mainichi/Kumiko Yasumoto)
Tetsuya Yamagami is transferred for a psychiatric evaluation, in the city of Nara on July 25, 2022. (Mainichi/Daiki Takikawa)

OSAKA -- A man who went to the same high school as the suspect accused of murdering former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is still asking himself whether things may have turned out differently if he had been able to listen to the worries of his former classmate.

    On July 8, the man was shocked to see his former classmate Tetsuya Yamagami, 41, whom he had lost touch with after graduating from high school, appear in news reports on the shooting of Abe. Unable to just sit still, he visited the site of the assassination in Nara to offer flowers.

    The 42-year-old man had entered a public high school known as one of the most prestigious schools in Nara Prefecture, and Yamagami had belonged to a group of close friends of his. According to the man, Yamagami was in the cheering squad, and the way he devoted himself to club activities while wearing his school uniform even in midsummer left a strong impression. Yamagami came to be affectionately called "Dancho," meaning leader of the squad. "What happened to you, Dancho?" the man murmured.

    The man still strongly remembers the time when he invited Yamagami to go to a candy shop near the school after classes were over, but Yamagami refused, saying, "I'll be late for the cheering squad." The man says Yamagami "hated being late or breaking rules, and was super diligent."

    The 42-year-old only learned after the shooting incident that Yamagami's mother had joined the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, widely known as the Unification Church, and made large donations.

    Before the assassination, Yamagami had posted on Twitter, "When I was 14, my family fell apart" -- indicating his family environment was already harsh by the time he reached high school. The man recalled, "Dancho was always smiling at school, and I wasn't able to notice his troubles."

    Although he didn't remain in contact with Yamagami after graduating from high school, the man wondered how his friend was doing during a reunion with his old classmates. Yamagami is said to have repeatedly changed jobs over a short period of time, and faced hardship after taking out a consumer loan just before the incident.

    The 42-year-old said, "If I had kept in touch with him after graduation, I might have been able to help him in some way. My feelings of regret won't go away."

    (Japanese original by Kumiko Yasumoto, Osaka City News Department)

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