Photo/IllutrationA man whose wife and 3-year-old daughter were killed after an elderly man drove through crosswalks in Tokyo’s Ikebukuro district holds up a drawing by his daughter, Riko, at a news conference in Tokyo on July 18. (Tatsuya Shimada)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

A man whose wife and child were killed by an elderly driver is calling for support for his petition campaign to seek severe punishment for the driver to prevent similar tragedies.

“Daily life with my two loved ones was what brought me happiness,” the 32-year-old company employee said at a news conference in Tokyo on July 18.

July 19 marks three months since his wife, Mana Matsunaga, and 3-year-old daughter, Riko, were mowed down in Tokyo's busy Ikebukuro district.

He released a family video shot before their deaths, and pleaded for people to engage in safe driving to prevent others from experiencing the same pain and loss.

Mana, his 31-year-old wife, shot the video on June 15, 2018.

The two-minute clip captures the moment when the man came home and received surprise gifts for Father’s Day from his daughter.

“Father’s Day, thank you!” Riko is heard greeting her dad as soon as he opens the door.

Riko gives him a drawing, and says, “This one is a smiling face, and this one is a troubled face.”

She then offers him a cake topped with alphabet cookies that spell out, “Thanks, Dad.”

"You made them, Riko, didn’t you? Cookies and the cake, too,” Mana is heard telling her daughter, offering encouragement.

Riko, smiling, says, “I did the mixing.”

Her dad hugs her, telling her repeatedly, “Thank you. I'm so happy.”

The same man, his drawn face now etched with sorrow, pleaded at the news conference, “Every person has a precious daily life. Traffic accidents take all that away.

“I hope people when driving think of people outside of their cars in the same way they care about those who are close to them and keep safe driving in mind,” the man said, explaining why he decided to make such a private memory public.

He and Mana met six years ago. He said she was an incredible cook and recalled how she made home-cooked meals for him every day. She always used organically grown vegetables, he said, because he wasn't feeling well physically at the time and she wanted to do everything she could to keep him healthy.

“I will cure you,” she told him.

Eventually she did, and they were blessed with Riko.

Early on the afternoon of April 19, Mana and Riko were riding a bicycle through a pedestrian crossing near Higashi-Ikebukuro subway station when a car slammed into them, killing them both.

Kozo Iizuka, 88, a former head of the Agency of Industrial Science and Technology, an organization under the now-defunct Ministry of International Trade and Industry, was behind the wheel of the vehicle.

The grieving father had a message for Iizuka at the news conference: “I want him to take the fact seriously that the lives of my beloved precious family were lost forever.”

In the petition launched on his blog, the man asks the prosecutor's office to impose a punishment as severe as possible on Iizuka to send a wake-up call over fatal accidents, which occur far too often.

Through the signature-collecting campaign, the man hopes to help prevent similar accidents by advancing efforts to popularize vehicles equipped with safety support systems and improve public transportation systems.

“My heart has ached since that day,” the man said. However, he added, “I have come to think that this pain is testament to my love for them. So I want to live my life embracing this pain.”

The Metropolitan Police Department in Tokyo, which has investigated the case, is expected to send papers on Iizuka to the public prosecutor’s office on suspicion of negligence resulting in injury and death.

Police said the evidence suggests that Iizuka drove his car at a terrifying speed through the street for about 150 meters after striking a curb.

The vehicle continued traveling after hitting Mana and Riko, smashing into a garbage truck and striking other pedestrians at another crosswalk.

According to police, Iizuka during voluntary questioning said, “It is possible that I was in a panic and accidentally pressed the accelerator instead of the brake pedal.”

Despite this, Iizuka has maintained throughout the investigation that, “The brakes didn’t work.”

Police have confirmed that there was nothing wrong with the vehicle and believe that Iizuka’s improper operation of the vehicle caused the accident.

(This article was written by Yuko Kawasaki, Nobuyuki Takiguchi and Chihaya Inagaki.)