There's an old aphorism that goes, "Peer closely at the man if you haven't seen him for three days."
People do change every day, and one should always bear that in mind even when dealing with someone familiar.
The long arm of the law has finally caught up with Katsuya Takahashi, 54, a former member of the doomsday cult Aum Shinrikyo who was arrested on June 15 on suspicion of murder. Takahashi had dodged society's peering eyes for 17 years.
His middle-aged face bore little resemblance to the police sketch of his younger self on ubiquitous wanted posters, nor to his pre-arrest video images. But despite his transformation over the years, his facial contours and the beard he had grown left me feeling he was one and the same man.
At the time of his arrest, he was in a Tokyo manga cafe that was only one train station away from his hideout in Kawasaki, Kanagawa Prefecture. The close proximity suggests that he was already effectively cornered. He probably had nobody to turn to for help and was a defenseless fugitive in the end.
I think the checkmate was forced by the presence of security cameras that formed a "fixed-point surveillance team," if you will, as well as by the police decision to seek the public's cooperation in hunting down Takahashi.
Used as he was to running and hiding, it still must have really unnerved him to keep seeing himself in the media every day, never mind how grainy or blurred the images were. The "peering eyes" of security cameras on street corners and ceilings are menacingly Orwellian, but they also let criminals know that they are being closely monitored.
Shizue Takahashi, 65, the widow of a subway station worker who was killed in the cult's sarin gas attacks in March 1995, noted, "The fact that (Takahashi) remained on the lam for such a long time added to the torment suffered by survivors and families of the victims."
For those people, the years of Takahashi's running and hiding were their years of grieving and weeping.
With the last Aum Shinrikyo fugitive captured, Takahashi has a heavy responsibility to fulfill---namely, to come completely clean with the court and recount the cult's madness in its entirety. That would be the least penance he could do for all the people he has made weep.
--The Asahi Shimbun, June 16
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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.
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