“Mukashi no Namae de Deteimasu,” which translates loosely as “I’m working under my old name,” is the title of a soppy pop song by Akira Kobayashi from back in the 1970s. It is about a bar hostess drifting from one establishment to another, calling herself by different names in different cities: Shinobu in Kyoto; Nagisa in Kobe; and back to her old name, Hiromi, in Yokohama.
Even for a woman like her, who has gone by many names, her real name is something like a hometown, where she ultimately belongs.
Akemi Saito, 49, who is suspected of harboring Makoto Hirata, 46, a former senior member of the doomsday cult Aum Shinrikyo, while he was on the run, reportedly changed her name every time she changed her domicile. The fugitive pair drifted all over the Tohoku region before finally settling in Osaka Prefecture. Even when they arrived there, they moved twice. I wonder how many names Saito used during her almost 17 years on the lam, working all the time to support herself and her partner.
She was Kyoko Yamaguchi while she held a live-in job at a “ryotei,” a high-class Japanese restaurant, in Sendai, and Shoko Yoshikawa at a Higashi-Osaka osteopathic clinic where she worked until recently.
It is interesting that she chose names that ended with “ko,” traditionally the most common suffix for women’s names. As I have written in this column before, the name that broke the dominance of “ko” was “Akemi,” Saito’s name. According to Meiji Yasuda Life Insurance Co., Akemi first made the top-10 list of baby girls’ names in 1957, and ranked No. 1 in 1965. Saito was born between those two years, at a time when Akemi was very much an “in” name.
That she chose classic “ko” names when faking her identity would seem to indicate a desire to be lost in the crowd.
Her written confession, submitted when she surrendered, says: “Today, I used my real name for the first time in 17 years. My life of lies is over.” Her words will probably anger the cult's victims and bereaved families, but I want to think her contrition is genuine.
Before she turned herself in, she reportedly phoned her parents in Fukushima Prefecture and apologized to them for failing to live up to her name, which is written with the kanji Chinese characters for “bright” and “beautiful.”
After living a life of lies supporting a fellow cult member who had got himself too deeply involved, she ultimately followed his example by surrendering herself to police, identifying herself by her real name. The story is too soppy even for a maudlin pop song.
--The Asahi Shimbun, Jan. 13
- « Prev
- Next »