On the night of Jan. 27, I watched the drama “Sekihotai Jiken” (Sekihotai Incident), which was produced and aired by Japan Broadcasting Corp. (NHK).

It was about a gunman’s attack on the Asahi Shimbun’s Hanshin Bureau in Nishinomiya, Hyogo Prefecture, in 1987. The shooting 31 years ago killed Tomohiro Kojiri, a 29-year-old reporter who was working at the bureau.

Many of my senior colleagues who mentored me on journalism and news reporting appeared in the drama under their real names.

I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen even for a moment.

The protagonist of the true-to-life drama, played by former SMAP member Tsuyoshi Kusanagi, is Tsuyoshi Hida, 65, who retired from the newspaper at the end of last year.

Soon after the gun attack on the bureau occurred on May 3, 1987, Hida was ordered to join a special squad of reporters created to investigate the crime.

Just as described in the drama, the members of the team were told by their superior that their mission was to focus on hunting for the perpetrator without writing articles, Hida recalls.

“We were all driven by a single-minded desire to find the perpetrator,” Hida says. “When our efforts seemed to be getting nowhere, we had heated arguments among us.”

The victim was one of their colleagues. When their probe turned up a suspicious person, they investigated them without waiting for police to take action.

When he was dealing with a dangerous task, Hida called his wife before and after it to let her know how he was getting on.

“I think that for Sekihotai anybody would do (to be killed) as long as the person was an Asahi Shimbun reporter.”

Even though he no longer works for the newspaper, Hida still keeps in touch with people who were important sources of information for the investigation into the crime.

As I watched the drama, I was impressed by how faithfully the Hanshin Bureau was reconstructed.

Even the darkening of the ceiling and the aged cylindrical trash can used in the bureau were all accurately reproduced, to say nothing of the arrangement of the desks and sofas. Watching all these things stirred up nostalgic memories in my mind.

The drama also reminded me of how nervous I was when I visited the bureau building for the first time after I was assigned to the special mission team. I also recalled the sense of powerlessness I felt as I cast my eyes skyward on the day the statute of limitations on the attack expired.

Kojiri’s mother, Miyoko, who died three years ago, composed a short poem about that day.

In the lingering cold in spring/ The statute of limitations/ Expired at midnight

I told myself never to forget the anger and resentment the victim’s family must have felt. I also resolved to keep the flame of passion ignited by our senior colleagues alive forever within me.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Jan. 28

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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.