Photo/IllutrationA memorial service is held in Sagamihara, Kanagawa Prefecture, on July 22 for the victims of a mass killing at the Tsukui Yamayurien institution for people with disabilities ahead of the third anniversary of the incident. (The Asahi Shimbun)

Poet Hotaru Arisawa, a quadriplegic who used to be a schoolteacher, wrote the following after hearing about the horrific tragedy at Tsukui Yamayurien, a care home for people with disabilities in Sagamihara, Kanagawa Prefecture: "My heart was also stabbed/ By the blade that was wielded in the dark at Yamayurien."

July 26 marks the third anniversary of the mass stabbings to death of 19 residents at the facility.

Satoshi Uematsu, a former caregiver accused of perpetrating the atrocity, is scheduled to go on trial in January.

Uematsu was quoted by police as saying after his arrest, "People who are unable to communicate cannot bring happiness." His distorted perception of people with disabilities shocked the nation.

Among those killed was a woman in her 30s, who was fond of fruit and coffee. She was known for always having a smile on her face. Another, a man in his 40s, loved baseball and trains and always looked dapper in a baseball uniform. "Soran Bushi," a traditional Japanese folk song that originated in Hokkaido, was the favorite song of a woman in her 70s who was killed.

Every victim had family members, friends and a host of memories.

When I visited Yamayurien, offerings of bouquets of flowers graced a table that had been set up at the site where the facility had stood.

There also was a display, probably created by friends of the victims, decorated with 19 folded paper cranes representing the 19 victims. A handwritten message on the display says, "We live together."

Turning my gaze, I saw the mountains bordering the prefecture. I could also hear the murmur of a stream flowing into the Sagamigawa river. In the fields, summer vegetables such as eggplants and tomatoes were ripening, and there was a Ferris wheel in the distance.

Placing myself in the scenery that must have been familiar to the slain residents, I found it hard to believe that three years ago this was the scene of a gruesome massacre.

"Every life is born to be loved/ Celebrate every life to confirm its existence," Arisawa wrote in another poem. Everyone is welcomed into the world with love, and all lives are of equal value. "Pity the murderer who was raised to believe that life's only value lies in being useful to someone else," Arisawa also wrote.

--The Asahi Shimbun, July 25

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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.