A Local Perspective on Life in Tsukuba, Ibaraki, Japan.

Report of Stabbing by FOREIGN-LIKE Man in Tsukuba Makes Big News- the discovery that the story was MADE UP, does not

By Avi Landau

An urgent request for help was sent to 119, the Japanese emergency services hotline, on the night of April 9th, 2013. The call was made by the distraught parents of an 18 year old girl who had just called them saying she had been assaulted- stabbed with a knife, near Ninomiya Park in Tsukuba, as she was making her way home from the technical college she attends.

This information was immediately relayed to the appropriate authorities in Tsukuba, and soon an ambulance was at the scene to rush the girl to the hospital ( it turned out that the wound was only 1 cm deep and not life-threatening). The police also arrived in force, and closed off the crime scene.

At the same time, news of the incident spread fast- via the social networks, emails, and phone calls. This was only natural- a crazed criminal was apparently on the loose.

I got the news, as well. My thoughts immediately went out to the girl and her parents, and I was filled with a sense of concern for the safety of the women in the area.  I even called some of my friends who had daughters near the age of the victim`s to warn them (if they hadn`t heard already the news).

Soon, however, my mind shifted to another concern- DID I HAVE A SOLID ALIBI?

As the story unfolded, it turned out that when interviewed by police, the girl had told them that she had been attacked by someone who had approached her asking for directions. He was wearing a black jacket and had a black backpack on his back. He then, without warning, according to her story, went at her with a bladed instrument of some sort – and stabbed her.

The reasons I had to fear being listed as a suspect were threefold. First, I usually go about town in black coat and backpack. Second, I was in the Ninomiya part of Tsukuba on that night.

And then to make matters worse for me and many others in Tsukuba was the fact that the young woman had described the man who had attacked her as FOREIGN-LIKE or FOREIGNISH, whatever that may mean ( the actual Japanese word which was released to the press was unique- GAIKOKUJIN FU- 外国人風 – possibly the first time this expression has ever been used).

From reading over all the numerous reports available online again and again I was finally able to come to the understanding that this meant that the young woman had not actually seen the man`s face (he was wearing a mask) – though he did sound to her as if his Japanese were broken or accented.

Anyway, as I have already stated- I needed an ALIBI. I wore the same clothes that the assailant did, I was certainly foreignish- AND I WAS in the same part of Tsukuba in which the incident occurred on that night- any detective doing his job properly would want to take me in for questioning.

But going over the previous night in my head I realized with relief that I DID have an AIR-TIGHT ALIBI- I was teaching a classful of students between 7 and 8:30 pm. The stabbing took place at 7:30. WHEW!

Still, for the next few days, the incident was the talk of the town- and naturally fear spread throughout our peaceful city.

The seemingly countless Japanese language social network messages that I looked at were all quite similar: `Haven`t they caught that foreignish man yet?` and `Stay off the streets at night until that foreign-like man is behind bars`.

It was a little uncomfortable for me moving around Tsukuba, as well. I certainly became self-conscious. You see, I get around mostly on foot. Even in normal times I feel bad when on a secluded bit of pedestrian path I have to pass by a lone woman walking from the other direction. I can certainly understand how they  might get nervous in such a situation. I never look straight them in the eye, and also keep far to the side of the path and give a polite bow of the head and a  gentle KONNICHI WA (Hello!), as we pass each other.

As you can imagine, after the stabbing incident, you could really feel the anxiety in the women and/or children that I passed as I made my way along Tsukuba`s sidewalks and paths. Schoolgirls ran past me,

Japanese friends and acquaintances seemed to always bring up the subject of the foreignish perpetator in conversation- and I always, in a joking way told them of my SOLID ALIBI ( one person made me a bit paranoid when after I told her I had an alibi she said: ` I KNOW `. as if she had been checking up on me and my schedule!- though she probably just meant: I KNOW YOU DIDN`T DO IT!)

Anyway more than a week passed. The tension on the pathways was still there. And then, on the 18th, nine days after the incident, I brought up the topic of the stabbing with some Japanese friends. One of them- only one out of several, said he had heard that the whole story had just been MADE UP BY THE GIRL!

I got online and did a search. All the original articles and postings came up- GIRL STABBED BY FOREIGN-LIKE MAN WHO IS STILL AT LARGE.

Then among all of them were one or two articles dated April 17th. They explained that the young woman who had reported the stabbing had wounded HERSELF with a knife (in an apparent fit of self-loathing) and could not admit to her parents or the police what she had done- so she made the whole thing up-  the foreignish man was a work of fiction!

I was naturally relieved to learn that there was  no dangerous criminal on the loose. But what bothered (and still bothers) me is that a week after the girl and the police had announced that the wound was self-inflicted and that the story of the “foreignish man” was a lie – few people knew how the story had actually turned out.

While the news of the attack by a foreignish man had spread like wildfire and had created a sensation- the news of the girls retraction of the story had hardly been noticed.

I was taken aback to hear that even the president of the local PTA at a school whose students and parents had become very sensitive to the threat of a possible madman ( and a mad foreignish man, to boot) walking in our midsts HAD NOT HEARD THAT THE STORY HAD BEEN MADE UP.

In fact, almost no one has heard the truth!

I guess that (as in most other countries) people are just more comfortable with and receptive to the news of foreigners  posing a threat (even if this creates fear) than with the fact that a NICE local girl is having emotional problems and is making false accusations. Remember the great E.M. Forster novel Passage to India?


The newspapers do say, however, that the police are considering charging the young woman with filing a false crime report. Still somehow, I doubt that the general public will ever hear much about what comes of this, no matter what happens.


For related Tsukublog articles see:



At Last a Visit to Onozaki’s Suwa Jinja – to learn its name – NOT to rob its offerings box!

And if you are interested, here is a song which I wrote with former Tsukubans Thomas Debor and Ascelin Gordon that tries to get into the sick mind of a stalker. You can download it for free here:



















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