With more time spent at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, Yuki Tsukamoto intensified her cleaning chores but paused in front of a room on the second floor.

For years, Tsukamoto, 53, who lives in Takarazuka, Hyogo Prefecture, had been too afraid to even enter the room for cleaning.

The room contains the belongings of Kana, her eldest daughter who was one of eight children murdered 19 years ago in a knife attack at Ikeda Elementary School in Ikeda, Osaka Prefecture.

But this year has been different for Tsukamoto. Slowly, she finally did something that she had long been unable to bring herself to do. She started to clean out the belongings of her dead daughter.

As she looked at the books, clothes, pictures and faded toys in the room, memories of Kana, who was 7 years old when she died, overwhelmed Tsukamoto with emotion.

A tiny, dried-up dead bug was found sandwiched in Kana’s essay book, underscoring how long it has been since the tragedy in 2001.

On June 8 that year, a man entered the school with a knife and went on a slashing and stabbing spree. Seven second-grade girls and one first-grade boy were killed. In addition, 15 students and teachers were injured.

The perpetrator was executed in 2004.


Since the mass murder, Tsukamoto has been working as a caregiver. But the day care center where she works has seen fewer customers with the spread of the novel coronavirus, so she began spending more time at her home.

In her spare time, Tsukamoto cleaned up the nearby house of her parents. She then thought about her daughter’s belongings. Her oldest son uses Kana’s desk and shelves, but the rest remained stored on the second floor.

Tsukamoto said that in the back of her mind, she had long thought about cleaning out the room but always backed out of the task.

However, the novel coronavirus outbreak put another thought in her head: If she died of COVID-19, who would sort out Kana’s things?

Tsukamoto did not want others to touch Kana’s belongings, so she became resolved to deal with them by herself.


One day in March, Tsukamoto went through textbooks for higher-grade pupils and essay books, which the school had given to the mother after the girl’s death.

When she found a strand of hair tangled in Kana’s hair tie, Tsukamoto burst into tears. At times, she was too overcome with emotion to continue the decluttering work.

On a trash-collection day, Tsukamoto threw away some of Kana’s belongings along with the garbage of her son and parents.

From her heart, Tsukamoto told Kana: “I’m not only throwing away your belongings, Kana. I’m throwing away mine and grandpa’s, too, because we are family.”

Tsukamoto decided to keep the pajamas that Kana wore on the morning before she was killed. The mother said she still needs some time to think about whether to throw away other belongings.

“It is a step-by-step process,” she said. “I will try again when I have courage to make a decision.”


At 10:10 a.m. on June 8--the time of the attack by the school intruder--a commemoration ceremony was held at Ikeda Elementary School. A bell created to mourn the loss of the eight children rang out.

All 600 pupils at the school usually attend the annual ceremony. But because of the COVID-19 pandemic, only one representative of each grade participated this year to reduce the risk of infections.

The student representatives gave no speeches.

“Adults who are standing here will never let this tragedy be forgotten, and they will work hard to pass on the message with the commemoration tower that stands in front of me,” said Takumi Sanada, the principal of Ikeda Elementary School.


The safety lesson normally held at Ikeda Elementary School before the commemoration ceremony was postponed this year because of the virus.

Since 2006, Osaka Kyoiku University, to which Ikeda Elementary School is attached, has been explaining the incident to students at the beginning of the semester around this time of year.

Most lectures are now being held online because of the novel coronavirus, so the university plans to hold the lecture about the attack next semester.

This semester, the university conducted a survey on all 4,500 students, asking if they knew about the incident and what they thought about the university’s security to protect students.

The university plans to use the survey results for safety education.

Daisuke Fujita, 59, a professor at Osaka Kyoiku University who used to be the principal of Ikeda Elementary School, said, “I want to continue to create an opportunity for people to think about safety in schools and communities and nurture people who can protect children of the future.”

A special exhibition that the university usually holds this season was canceled because the university’s library has been closed to prevent coronavirus infections.

Instead, a special page listing about 100 books related to school safety was added to the library’s website.

(This article was compiled from reports by Masato Yanagidani, Toshiharu Morishima and Asako Hanafusa.)