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Lovesick JapanSex * Marriage * Romance * Law$

Mark D. West

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780801449475

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: August 2016

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9780801449475.001.0001

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(p.28) 2 Love
Lovesick Japan

Mark D. West

Cornell University Press

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter explores the dark side of love in three kinds of Japanese court cases: suicide, murder, and stalking. Characters in these ominous-sounding tales should not be expected to live happily ever after, and they don't. But the depiction in the opinions of love as suffering extends beyond tragic endings to places in the narrative that need not be bleak: the judges' applications of laws and nuanced recitations of the facts that occurred before the tragedy. Judges' depictions of love even extend beyond the particular facts of the cases, as they discuss the facts against the backdrop of what they view as widely shared assumptions about love. The resulting narratives usually describe love as if it naturally could not be anything other than an overwhelming, disorienting force to which people unwittingly cede self-control. The chapter begins by examining the context for this dark side of love in Japan.

Keywords:   Japan, love, Japanese law, Japanese court cases, suicide, murder, stalking, suffering

Love abounds in Japan. Japan’s popular prime-time soap operas are often about love and obstacles to obtaining it. The music and film industries thrive on love songs and romantic comedies. Stores sell out of cakes and candy on Christmas Eve, Valentine’s Day, and White Day, days said to be the most romantic of the year. Bookstores are full of modern romance novels, classic Japanese love stories, and shelves of books that teach how to find true love. Cell-phone novels with titles like Eternal Dream and Deep Love, written by and for young women, are one of the latest manifestations of pop-culture love.1

Some of these entertainment genres celebrate the power of love as a beautiful, many-splendored thing. But the most striking feature of Japanese love narratives is their strong emphasis on suffering and pain. In Japan, love is often portrayed as a problem—an irresistible, destructive, and life-threatening condition. Of course, Japan is not the only nation to describe love in that way. Unavoidable tragedy is at the center of much of Western romance literature—not to mention American murder ballads and lonesome country standards.2

(p.29) But love in Japanese court opinions is often darker and even more difficult to overcome. In this chapter, I explore the dark side of love in three kinds of Japanese court cases: suicide, murder, and stalking. Characters in these ominous-sounding tales should not be expected to live happily ever after, and they don’t. But the depiction in the opinions of love as suffering extends beyond tragic endings to places in the narrative that need not be bleak: the judges’ applications of laws and nuanced recitations of the facts that occurred before the tragedy. Judges’ depictions of love even extend beyond the particular facts of the cases, as they discuss the facts against the backdrop of what they view as widely shared assumptions about love. The resulting narratives usually describe love as if it naturally could not be anything other than an overwhelming, disorienting force to which people unwittingly cede self-control.

Before turning to the cases, let us examine the context for this dark side of love in Japan.

Love in Context

Several words in Japanese translate to “love.” Shinmeikai’s standard Japanese dictionary, Kokugojiten, defines one translation of love, ren’ai, as “a condition in which one has special feelings of affection for a particular member of the opposite sex, wants to be alone together, and with feelings of wanting to join together if possible, experiences extreme sadness when it is not possible.” Compare that definition to the Oxford English Dictionary: “that state or feeling with regard to a person which manifests itself in concern for the person’s welfare, and also often desire for his or her approval; deep affection, strong emotional content.” The focus in English is the other person, the loved; the focus in Japanese is wanting and sadness.

Surveys suggest the pervasiveness of the heartbroken definition in Japan. Before turning to them, I want to acknowledge that I am somewhat skeptical of the results of some of the surveys in this book, in part because people are not always truthful, even with themselves, about love, sex, and marriage. Nevertheless, even the studies that have questionable results are helpful tools for understanding the context for judicial opinions on love, sex, and marriage, as they show the questions and issues that researchers from universities, corporations, and most interestingly the government find important enough to ask. And when the results correlate with the cases, we should at least examine possible connections.

(p.30) One study compared attitudes toward love and romance among students from the United States, Germany, and Japan. It found that German and U.S. students valued romantic love more highly than Japanese and that, among the three, the Germans were the most “passionate” insofar as they were most likely to forgo economic security for love. It also found the Japanese response to be “the most complex.” Some Japanese responses reflected traditional romantic ideals: for example, Japanese respondents were more likely to agree that “a woman should expect her sweetheart to be chivalrous on all occasions” and that “to be truly in love is to be in love forever.” Yet Japanese respondents were also significantly more likely than German and U.S. respondents to agree with the statements “When you are in love, you are usually in a daze” and “Jealousy usually varies directly with love; that is, the more in love you are, the greater the tendency for you to become jealous.”3

In a second study, three researchers from Osaka University asked 178 Japanese university students “What is love to you?” (anata ni totte ren’ai (ai) to ha nan desuka). The researchers coded the 247 responses they received into fifteen categories, as listed in table 2.1.

As the table shows, respondents volunteered a broad range of descriptions of love. The two most common responses were “love gives energy and power to life” and “love is complex and sometimes leads to pain.” But the gender split is significant: “love gives energy and power to life” was the response of more than a quarter of women but less than twelve percent of men—and it was also the only statistically significant difference in the survey. One in five women found that “love is important and vital” but fewer than one in nine men agreed. Crucially, the two male responses tied for first place were “love is complex and sometimes leads to pain” and “love is smug and full of assumptions and misunderstanding.”

The gap in male and female perceptions of love correlates with both a separation of the sexes and strictly defined gender roles in Japan. From an early age, the degree of separation between boys and girls at Japanese schools is usually far greater than in U.S. ones. The workplace too is often sexually segregated, as women continue to have difficulty in obtaining management positions and often work part-time. So separated, many men form friendships exclusively with other men and women with other women.

Men and women in Japan seem to interact in meaningful ways infrequently. A 2006 government survey—and note here that the government cares—found that 52.2 percent of single men and 44.7 percent of single (p.31)

Table 2.1. What Is Love to You?


Male response % (Rank)

Female response % (Rank)

Overall response %

Love brings energy and power to life

11.7 (4)

25.5 (1)


Love is complex and sometimes leads to pain

15.5 (1)

14.6 (6)


Love is about trust and kindness

11.7 (4)

21.8 (2)


Love is important and vital

11.7 (4)

18.2 (3)


Love advances a person and leads to growth

11.7 (4)

18.2 (3)


Love is smug and full of assumptions and misunderstanding

15.5 (1)

5.5 (13)


Love is vague, puzzling, unclear, and cannot be understood

12.6 (3)

9.1 (10)


Love gives comfort and causes feelings of happiness

9.7 (8)

10.9 (7)


Love is fun

9.7 (8)

7.3 (12)


Love is about earnest caring and fondness

3.9 (13)

16.4 (5)


Love is instinctive and causes excitement

5.8 (11)

10.9 (7)


Love is realistic: a compromise, requires money, is about sex, etc.

8.7 (10)

5.5 (13)


Love is a wonderful thing that I would like to try

4.9 (12)

9.1 (10)


Love is inessential and merely adds value to life

1.9 (15)

10.9 (7)


Love is about being with or wanting to be with a companion

3.8 (14)

3.6 (15)


(*) Denotes statistically significant difference between sexes at the 95% confidence interval.

Source: Yū ji Kanemasa, Jun’ichi Taniguchi, and Masanori Ishimori, Ren’ai no Ime-ji to Kō i Riyū ni Oyobosu Isei Kankei to Seibetsu no Eikyō [Effects of Opposite Sex Relationships and Sex on Images of Romantic Love and Reasons for Attraction], 1 Tainin Shakai Shinrigaku Kenkyū 147 (2001). Table revised from original.

women between the ages of eighteen and thirty-four had no relationship of any sort with any member of the opposite sex, not even friendship. In the 30–34 age group (the oldest surveyed), 24.3 percent of the men and 26.7 percent of the women said they were virgins—and 11 percent of the men and 18 percent of the women declined to answer the question, suggesting that the actual numbers might be higher.4 Another study found that 30 percent of Japanese men have never been in love, a percentage far higher than in Russia (12 percent) and the United States (13 percent).5

Part of the reason for the phenomena these data represent might be strictly defined gender roles. It is cliché but true to note that gender stereotypes permeate Japanese culture. Female themes of enka ballads are beauty, passivity, and longing; the male theme is dogged commitment to a path and following it until the end.6 In manga comic books, male characters are said to be direct, cool, eager, and brazen; female characters are said to be kind, cute, cooperative, and shy.7

(p.32) Judges adopt similar gender stereotypes. The adjective “feminine” (onna rashii) is used sparingly in court opinions, but when it is, it usually refers to physical attributes: makeup, shoes, and certain poses and styles of sitting.8 Feminine is used in the cases to refer to a woman who is fashionable or to a woman who is “large-breasted and has a nice body.”9 A young girl who plays with other girls is considered to be engaged in a feminine activity.10

By contrast, the cases usually apply the adjective “masculine” (otoko rashii) to character and actions. Whether in the course of quoting or summarizing testimony or on their own, courts have labeled as masculine the following actions: doing one’s job,11 paying a debt,12 providing a urine sample as ordered,13 taking responsibility for criminal actions,14 admitting the truth about a sexual relationship,15 playing “muscle-to-muscle” American football,16 making decisions,17 and speaking one’s true intentions to a superior.18 Some actions are said to be masculine in context: for a yakuza gang member, killing as instructed or as expected is masculine19; for at least one firefighter, masculinity could be found in the settlement of a dispute by duel-like punching.20 Many actions are labeled as not masculine, including being too comical, concerning oneself with trifling matters, attempting to evade punishment, and of course appearing feminine.21

This gender split is prominently on display in the “love theory” (ren’ai ron) section that exists in virtually every large Japanese bookstore. The books in this section share three defining qualities. First, few of them resemble the marriage improvement, self-improvement, or even relationship books found in U.S. bookstores. Instead of offering practical advice about how to manage or cope with existing relationships, love theory books are devoted to the pursuit of true love. They teach self-discovery, goal-setting, self-promotion, how to dress appropriately, and how to converse with the opposite sex.

Second, few love theory books are written by psychologists or other professionals. Some are written by celebrities, but many are unclassifiable one-shots, such as The Underground Theory of Love, a book based on interviews with women in the sex trade. It begins by instructing the reader that “normal love enters the heart and connects to the body. Sex-shop love enters the body and connects to the heart.”22

Finally, as with the large number of translated Harlequin romance novels sold in Japan, most love theory books are written for women.23 In many bookstores, the “love theory” books are merged with feminist books into (p.33) one overarching section: Theory of Woman/Theory of Love. The spines of the books are often pink, the titles are written in cutesy fonts, and the cover art—full of wide-eyed girls, hearts, and flowers—is pitched to female readers. These books belong to a larger catalog of works that purport to teach femininity, including cookbooks, which often are more about preparing meals correctly for children, husbands, and boyfriends than cooking. The idea behind women’s books seems to be that although there are very few good men are out there, the right man can be found—and caught—with the right set of techniques.

For men, however, the fundamental premise differs. For men, the idea seems to be that there are many, many good women out there, but they are unavailable to most men, or at least to most Japanese men. As a best-selling 2008 book about Japan’s growing “crisis” of people who do not or cannot marry explains, “No matter where one goes in the world—Morocco, Indonesia, Mexico—one finds Japanese women married to local men. Japanese women can use love to go anywhere in the world. … But, and please excuse me for saying it, Japanese men are the least sought-after men in the world.”24 Japanese women need to target selectively, but Japanese men, the idea seems to be, should simply take what comes along.

Japanese love theory books for men are usually shelved in the miscellaneous section, not the love theory section, and their subjects include personal hygiene, sex, social skills, and the cultivation of masculinity—not exactly love theory. A typical example is Health and Physical Education for Thirty-Year-Olds.25 The 2008 book was initially marketed at stores in Tokyo’s electronics market, Akihabara, an area said to be teeming with tech-savvy but socially challenged men who have never dated, or perhaps even spoken to, a woman. It quickly became the best-selling book on Amazon.com’s Japanese site, amazon.co.jp. The book teaches readers how to talk to a woman (“it is like playing catch”), what to do and not to do on a date (“do not go to a computer shop”), when sex will happen (“most couples do it after approximately one to three months of dating, which means three to eight dates”), how to prepare for sex (“trim your fingernails”), and how to remove clothing (a woman will be “less embarrassed” if the man removes her t-shirt from behind). Roughly two-thirds of the book is about sexual techniques and positions, all illustrated by a seemingly happy cartoon couple. One of the book’s stated goals is to help thirty-year-old virgins whose sexual experience has been limited to watching adult videos and (p.34) playing sexual role-playing computer games. Accordingly, it instructs that there are differences between those media and real sex: real sex does not occur outdoors, requires a condom, happens with the lights off, and does not involve ejaculation in the woman’s face (“most women dislike it”).

Despite all the interest, the Japanese vocabulary of love is relatively new. Japanese translators of Western literature in the late nineteenth century had no word to convey the dominant understanding of love as a combination of devotion, affection, longing, friendship, and equality. Translators could have used ai, which translates to “love” in English, but according to some accounts, ai was at that point more closely associated with passion and could only be used by a superior to an inferior26; according to others, ai simply denoted beauty and had religious overtones27; and according to still others, it was linked too closely to parental and sibling love.28 Translators could have used koi, but it was considered to be too sexual.29 According to the most cited historical account, a new term for love, ren’ai, was coined in the 1870s by combining the characters koi and ai.30 By the 1890s, translators had begun to use ren’ai regularly to convey the Western concept of love.31

Contemporary Japanese has several words for love. As a high court noted in a 2009 trademark infringement suit over the use of the word rabu, a Japanized version of the English word love, rabu is “well known in Japan” and synonymous with the nouns ai, aijō, and kōi, and with the verbs hito wo aisuru (to love a person), koi wo suru (to be in love), and suki ni naru (to fall in love, or to come to like).32 Still, courts almost always use one of three words to express feelings roughly comparable to the English concept of love: ai, aijō, or ren’ai. Ai translates to love in English, while aijō translates a bit awkwardly to “feelings of love.” Lovers have ai and aijō for one another, but so do friends, parents, children, and pets.33 Ren’ai is used mostly for lovers, including young couples, persons in extramarital affairs, and perhaps newlyweds; it implies a dating or romantic relationship.34 The only time ren’ai applies to married couples is when it is used to distinguish “love” marriages from marriages that were arranged (a distinction I will discuss later).

“I love you” translates most smoothly and directly into Japanese as aishiteru. But aishiteru rarely appears in the law. In the published case law, it appears only as reported speech—for instance, later in this chapter by a woman being strangled by her husband and by another woman after she has been beaten, and in chapter 3 in an emotional distress case in which a man denies having said it.35

(p.35) The phrase “I love you” is rare in Japanese society as well. Expression of fondness and attraction often take the form of sukida, which is sometimes translated as “I love you” but perhaps more accurately as a bit closer to the less committed “I like you.”36 This aspect of love is a subject of serious academic discourse in Japan. Studies indicate that although young Japanese people favor direct expressions of love, those expressions rarely take place between spouses.37 The scarcity of such expression during marriage has been attributed not to lack of love but to embarrassment38 and to a feeling that love in marriage is superficial and “I love you” a “fatuous form of flattery.”39

A Japanese bank campaign provides an intriguing glimpse into the lack of straightforward declarations of love among married couples. In 2000, the Sumitomo Trust and Banking Company began “Love Letters at Sixty” (60sai no Rabu Reta-), a promotion in which it asked sixty-something married couples to submit romantic missives they had written to their spouses. The only requirement was that the words fit on the back of a postcard. The campaign became an annual one, and by 2008, NHK press had published roughly one thousand love letters over the course of eight annual volumes and was receiving more than ten thousand entries per year.

The sponsor, Sumitomo Trust, awards prizes to the writers of the best letters. The 2008 grand prize winner was Noriyuki Miyakawa, a sixty-seven-year-old husband. Forty years ago, Noriyuki reminisced in his letter, he promised to come home early from work one day. But he forgot. When he finally did arrive home in the middle of the night, his wife was not waiting up for him as usual but already in bed. She told him, “I waited for you at the station.” His response was “What’s the matter with you, stupid? Lots of things happen at work!” The last line of his letter was “I’m sorry, Chieko.”40

The love letter as apology or as an expression of gratitude is a common motif. Very few letters explicitly mention love, and fewer still say “I love you.” Of the fifteen letters the sponsors chose in 2008 for the runner-up “gold prize,” only one said “I love you”—and it was an apology from a wife for her inability to say those words to her husband in person. The theme of regrettable silence runs throughout the collected letters. One husband writes, “It took me forty years to learn to tell you properly ‘it’s delicious’ about the food you prepare. So it will take me five more years to learn to say ‘thank you.’ And then to tell you ‘I love you’ … well, I’ll do my best.”41 A braver husband writes: “Next Sunday I’ll tell you ‘I love you’ [aishiteruyo], so please don’t laugh.”42

(p.36) Wives also write of their inability to express romantic feelings. One fifty-one-year-old woman wrote the following to her husband, whose transfer to an overseas job had forced them into years of long-distance marriage (tanshin funin): “On the day I go to meet you, I romp around on purpose and act a little weird. I do that to cover up my joy and my loneliness, but someday I’d like to actually express those feelings in words. I’ll probably cry if I do.”43

At the same time, neither husbands nor wives seem to have any expectation of verbal expressions of intimacy. As one sixty-two-year-old wife wrote in her love letter to her husband:

I’ve never heard you say “I like you” or “I love you” [sukida toka aishiteru toka]. But I still hold dear other words that you’ve told me. Before we were married, when you gave me my Christmas present, you said, “I’ve just learned for the first time how great it is to give a present.” I wonder if you remember those words from forty years ago.44

A fifty-seven-year-old wife echoes:

I’m not very bright. I’ve made lots of mistakes. And yet you’ve never strongly scolded me. You’re a reserved person. But I really like that you’re a reserved person. Even though my memory is not so good, I remember every time you’ve said, “Thank you.” If I weren’t with you, I would surely be a sad person.45

The unspoken nature of the feelings in these letters is seen in Japan as a romantic ideal: true love does not need to be spoken, it simply is. Part of the reason for the idealization might be that the comfortable affection of mature, mellowed couples stands in such stark contrast to a view of love that we will now see in the cases: emotional upheaval.

Love in the Law

When Japanese judges write about love, it is rarely about the sugary sentiments seen in love letters, and it usually is unrelated to the idealized love sought by readers of love theory books. Instead, judges write of the dark, disruptive side of love. It appears frequently in court opinions in three (p.37) particularly lurid kinds of cases: love suicides, murder, and stalking. It rarely appears elsewhere.

Love Suicides

The publication of Jun’ichi Watanabe’s 1997 novel Lost Paradise (Shitsurakuen), in which a fifty-four-year-old married man falls in love with a thirty-seven-year-old married woman, struck a national nerve. The love-struck pair commits suicide. Watanabe explains the male protagonist’s feelings about the suicide: “Kuki came to think that people regard a love suicide as something tragic or crazy because they see only the outer shell, when the souls of the man and woman involved have moved elsewhere.”46

On one hand, as we see here, love suicide is described as “tragic” or “crazy.” On the other hand, love suicide is romanticized in Japan, as evidenced by the success of this very novel (and its accompanying film and television miniseries). Japanese fiction is filled with tragically romantic themes of geisha/client suicide, adulterous wife/lover suicide, failed suicide, and half-failed double suicide, in which one party is left to carry on after a lover’s death and his or her own failed suicide attempt.47

In real life, it is difficult to determine how frequently love suicide occurs. The word for love suicide, shinjū, refers not only to suicides of lovers but also to joint suicides involving family members. Those suicides are often covered by the media but are not necessarily common. One study (and the fact that this study exists suggests the importance of the topic) finds that of 194 joint suicide cases reported in the Asahi Shinbun newspaper over a six-year period, 64 were mother-child, 30 were husband-wife, 29 were the entire household, 22 were father-child, and 20 were unwed love suicides—but the vocabulary of shinjū makes it difficult to tell precisely what those figures mean.48

Love suicides appear in the case law most frequently when one lover’s suicide is successful and the other survives. The following Love Hotel Suicide case is exemplary. Kimiko and Tetsuo met in the Self-Defense Forces, Japan’s military. Kimiko was 21 and had recently enlisted; Tetsuo was 40, married, a father, and Kimiko’s superior officer. Kimiko, the court explained, “was raised by her mother after her parents’ divorce, which occurred when she was in elementary school. … She had a kind, easily sweet-talked personality.”

(p.38) Kimiko and Tetsuo began in November 2004 an “adulterous relationship” (furin kankei) which was discovered in January 2005. At that point, their superiors instructed them to end the relationship immediately. When Tetsuo’s wife learned of the relationship, Tetsuo attempted suicide. He failed. He was transferred to a base in Yokosuka. Kimiko’s superiors advised her not to see him again, but she continued to meet him secretly on weekends and holidays. She made plans to resign from her post when her term was completed in March 2006 so that she could move closer to Tetsuo.

But in September 2005, one of Kimiko’s female friends introduced her to a single man, Masa, who was only two years older than she and stationed at the same base. They began to “e-mail each other and go on drives together.”

Despite explicit orders from her mother, Kimiko also continued to e-mail and phone Tetsuo. When she met him in December, however, she told him of her new relationship, announcing that “I can’t go with you to Yokosuka” and “I have a new boyfriend, so we have to break up.” At the same time, Kimiko assured her mother that she and Tetsuo were just friends.

Still Tetsuo continued to contact her. He called and begged her to stay in the relationship, saying, “I just want to be with you no matter what kind of relationship you want.” They finally made plans to meet for one last date in Kyoto on February 17, 2006. Meanwhile, Tetsuo’s e-mail continued, and Kimiko told her mother that “Tetsuo keeps e-mailing me, saying that he wants to die, that he can’t eat, he can’t work, he can’t sleep and so on. I really feel sorry for him. I want to break up with him but I just can’t.”

In January, four months after they met, “Kimiko kissed Masa for the first time, and around February 4, they had sex (this was the only time they had sex).” The next day, according to Kimiko’s diary, she fought with her mother about Tetsuo and his frequent hang-up calls while they were shopping at a local Jusco department store. “Mom’s not rational,” Kimiko wrote. She went on to write that she bought Tetsuo a “cute” Valentine’s Day necktie. She also bought chocolate for Masa, which she gave him on Valentine’s Day. When one of her girlfriends e-mailed, asking who her “main” guy was, she replied: “My main guy is Masa, and I’m struggling to break it off with Tetsuo.”

Yet Tetsuo remained in the picture. On Valentine’s Day, he e-mailed her: “I can’t sleep. Will you pretend to be my girlfriend until Sunday?” (p.39) And again on February 17, just before they met: “I want to see you in that denim miniskirt one last time.”

Kimiko and Tetsuo met as planned on the seventeenth at Kyoto Station. They checked into a nearby love hotel. Love hotels are designed specifically for sex: they can usually be identified by large neon signs and are located in red-light districts and at highway exits, areas to which they are confined by national law and local zoning regulations. Kimiko and Tetsuo might have chosen a love hotel over a regular one for several reasons. Love hotels offer anonymity; there is no front desk, and no credit card or identification is required. They are also relatively inexpensive: although love hotels usually lack the amenities of a luxury hotel (such as a concierge), they offer other amusements, such as a karaoke system, a massage chair, a large bath, or perhaps a heart-shaped rotating bed underneath a mirrored ceiling, at less than half the price of a regular room. Because love hotel management and patrons are accustomed to any noises that might emerge from behind closed doors, love hotels are also known as refuges where couples can have uninhibited sex that will not be heard or interrupted by children or parents, who might be sleeping in the next room of a crowded, thin-walled Japanese house. For the same reasons, love hotels are sometimes sites for crime, including prostitution, underage sex, and occasionally rape and murder. Still, while many people might be embarrassed to be spotted at a love hotel, a love hotel visit would not be considered particularly abnormal either for a clandestine affair or for a married couple.49

When Kimiko and Tetsuo arrived at the love hotel, she gave him his present, the necktie she had bought for him. While Kimiko was in the bath that night, Tetsuo used Kimiko’s cell phone to call his rival, Masa. Tetsuo told Masa that he was dating Kimiko and that Masa should stay away from her. The couple spent the night together. On the eighteenth, they rented a car in Himeji, and Kimiko practiced driving (she planned to graduate from driving school the following month). They spent the night of the eighteenth in another love hotel.

Around noon on the nineteenth, Kimiko phoned her mother to let her know that all was well. At 6:30 that evening, Kimiko and Tetsuo went to two drug stores, where Kimiko bought twelve sleeping pills and seventy-two sedatives. Fifteen minutes later, they checked into an Osaka love hotel, where they took the pills and slit their wrists with a fruit knife and a razor. (p.40) They tried to hang themselves but were unsuccessful. They decided to sleep until the drugs and the bleeding caused their deaths.

The pair awoke around midnight when the love hotel manager called to tell them that they had stayed too long to receive the three-hour “rest” rate and would be required to pay for a full night. The drug doses had been too small and the cuts too shallow to induce death. They tried again to hang themselves in the bathroom but again were unsuccessful. Tetsuo then strangled Kimiko—with the necktie she had given him. He reported the incident to the police at 7:55 a.m. Police found no evidence of struggle.

Tetsuo testified that he had told Kimiko repeatedly that he wanted to die. Kimiko responded, he said, by assuring him that “if we were together, I’d die for you” and “let’s take sleeping pills, cut our wrists, and bleed to death.” Tetsuo also said that Kimiko instructed him to strangle her with the necktie after their attempts proved unsuccessful. He asked if she were sure, and when she said yes, he used the necktie to strangle her. He then tried to hang himself and cut his wrists, but when he did not die, he decided to call the police.

At trial, prosecutors attempted to prove that Tetsuo had committed murder as specified in article 199 of the Penal Code: “A person who kills another shall be punished.” Tetsuo argued that he had merely participated in a suicide, a crime governed by article 202: “A person who instigates or assists another to comment suicide or kills another at the request or with the consent of the latter shall be punished.” The penalty for murder is higher than the penalty for assisted suicide.

The statutes gave no further guidance, leaving the court to conduct its own investigation on its own terms. The court briefly examined the physical evidence. It found that the couple had indeed tried to hang themselves. It did not accept the prosecution’s theory that Kimiko bought the drugs to help her sleep; if she had sleep issues, the court reasoned, she would have purchased them on their first night together, not the third. The court found no evidence that Kimiko resisted.

The court’s analysis turned not on the physical evidence but on the question of whether Kimiko was in love (aijō—feelings of love) with Tetsuo. If Kimiko had been in love with him, the court reasoned, she consented to a love suicide and Tetsuo should receive the shorter sentence accorded in cases of homicide to which the victim consented. Conversely, if Kimiko (p.41) was not in love, she did not consent, and Tetsuo was a murderer who deserved a longer sentence.

From a U.S. legal perspective, this is a fascinating way of framing the case. Although laws differ from state to state, an inquiry by a U.S. court probably would focus on Tetsuo’s state of mind. Tetsuo seems to have intended Kimiko’s death (though his lawyer might argue otherwise), but was he insane? Did he suffer from an “extreme emotional disturbance”? Was there some sort of “heat of passion?” And what of Kimiko’s state of mind? Did she manifest consent? Was Tetsuo reckless or negligent in believing that she consented? U.S. law, focusing on intent, categorizes mental states and then attempts to determine if a particular defendant’s thought process falls into those categories.

The Japanese court in this case does away with those intent-based complications and heads straight to the emotional core of the matter by asking whether the parties were in love. Doing so might avoid some legal fictions, but it also causes a couple of problems. First, by focusing on love in this way, the court tacitly recognized that love is a legitimate, or at least not unimaginable, motive for suicide. Surely that is not the message the state wants to send: in fact, the government has set an official goal of a 20 percent reduction in the suicide rate from 2007 to 2016.50

Second, and more centrally, the court has required itself to answer questions that seem unanswerable. How can anyone determine whether two people, one of whom died at the hands of the other, were in love?

Prosecutors in the case sought to help the court make that determination by using Kimiko’s statements. They argued that Kimiko’s e-mail message in which she agreed to meet “one last time” confirmed that she had been trying to end her relationship with Tetsuo. “It is clear,” they argued, “that Kimiko’s love for Masa had cooled to a great degree.”

The court disagreed, citing the “facts” of love as follows:

  1. 1. Kimiko spent two complete days with Tetsuo through February 17, and they stayed together in a love hotel.

  2. 2. On the fifth of the same month, Kimiko bought a necktie for Tetsuo. On the same day, she expressed some unease with Masa in her diary, when she wrote, “Despite all of that, I found a necktie for him and bought it.” While [the “despite all of that” language] suggests some feelings of irritation or dissatisfaction, it also may raise suspicions that she was unable to throw away her love for Tetsuo. (p.42)

  3. 3. According to [Kimiko’s friend’s] testimony, she could not confirm directly that Masa and Kimiko had begun dating in earnest. Moreover, during the two days she was with Tetsuo, Kimiko did not contact Masa, which raises some suspicions as to the depths of her feelings for him.

In consideration of these facts, it cannot be denied that Kimiko still was in love to some degree with Tetsuo. (The prosecution argues that the necktie was purchased only to assuage Tetsuo, who had been making hang-up phone calls to her mother. But as the previously mentioned diary shows, Kimiko’s feelings were complicated, and she could not throw away her love. …)

Moreover, above and beyond the fact that it cannot be said that Tetsuo and Kimiko were not in love, Tetsuo, who had previously attempted suicide, elicited sympathy from Kimiko when he said, “I want to die. I want to die.” Furthermore, with the feeling that this was to be their last meeting, they spent two days together, and as the time for them to part drew near, Kimiko, who had a tenderhearted tendency to agree with anything a person said or thought, sympathized with Tetsuo, who hinted that he would commit suicide after they parted. It is not unthinkable that she would have consented to joint suicide by saying something indirect, such as “I’ll die if it’s with you.”

Each of the court’s three points reflects assumptions about love and death. First, the court interpreted the fact of Kimiko’s and Tetsuo’s visit to a love hotel as a sign of love or romance, and not as a purely sexual arrangement—notwithstanding the widely held view of love hotels as destinations for sex. Second, the court placed a great deal of emphasis on Kimiko’s emotional conflict—her confusion, not joy. The court did not require her to speak explicitly of love, or even of fondness, in her diary. The evidence that mattered to the court was her ambivalence, as manifested by her inability to resist the urge to buy Tetsuo a necktie. Third, the court noted that Kimiko was a gullible personality “type,” implying that some people are simply more likely than others to consent to death. By describing Kimiko at the beginning of the opinion as having a “kind, easily sweet-talked personality” (yasashiku hito no iinari ni nariyasui), a phrase that seems superfluous in this context, the court was able to bolster its claim later in the opinion that her kindness and gullibility may have induced her to consent to a joint suicide just to spare Tetsuo from having to die alone.

Evidence of the court’s views on love also lies in what the court chose to omit. For example, the court did not require that Kimiko’s relationship with Tetsuo be exclusive; it found love even though Kimiko had another (p.43) suitor—a suitor whom she told her friend she preferred to Tetsuo. Nor was Kimiko required to profess her love; even Tetsuo, who had a strong interest in claiming that Kimiko had declared her love to him, apparently never made any such claim. Focusing instead on the love hotel, the necktie, and Kimiko’s personality, the court found love, accordingly found Tetsuo guilty only of aiding suicide, and sentenced him to only six and one-half years in prison for Kimiko’s homicide.51

If the case had been tried in a U.S. courtroom, because of the importance of intent, lawyers for both sides likely would have presented expert psychiatric testimony. In a New York case, for example, lawyers presented testimony from a psychiatrist to show that a defendant had a “passivedependent personality disorder” and that she had a “dependent, childlike character structure,”52 much like Kimiko seems to have had. Japanese courts are required in criminal cases to give “due consideration” to opinions of psychiatric experts regarding mental disorders, so it would not have been unusual for attorneys in Kimiko’s case to present such evidence.53 But they didn’t, or at least it did not appear in the opinion—and the court seems to have had no difficulty making its own diagnosis.

It seems likely that both Tetsuo and the easily sweet-talked Kimiko suffered from depression. The medical literature shows that depression is closely associated with suicide,54 and Japan has one of the highest suicide rates in the world—including nearly three people per day who are determined by police to have killed themselves because of “male-female problems” not unlike Kimiko’s (another three victims per day do so because of “marital discord”).55 The actual incidence of depression in Japan is unknown, but there is consensus that it is underreported, underdiagnosed, and undertreated. Underreporting is due at least in part to the significant stigma of depression in Japan.56 Until very recently, mental health care was available only on an inpatient basis in psychiatric hospitals, and admittance to such a facility implied incapacitating long-term mental illness not only for the patient but for the family as well.57

The stigma associated with depression is related to popular understandings of the illness and its causes. When surveyed, Japanese people were far more likely than Australians to attribute depression and other mental illnesses to “nervousness” and “weakness of character,” rather than genetics, the factor most frequently cited by the Australians.58 Even the word for depression (utsubyō) in Japanese carries stigma; when asked to label stories (p.44) of mental health issues, Japanese people were far less likely than Australians to use psychiatric labels such as “depression.”59 When pharmaceutical companies sought to introduce next-generation antidepressants (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs) to Japan in 1999 (Luvox) and 2000 (Paxil), one of their first tasks was thus to change the image of depression by relabeling it a “cold of the heart” (kokoro no kaze).60

In the absence of easy access to mental health professionals, or even a familiar language for talking about mental illness, diagnosis and assessment of the meaning or context of mental illness often occurs not on the psychiatrist’s couch but in the courtroom. The results are frequently difficult to reconcile. In a divorce case filed in 2006, for instance, the husband-plaintiff claimed that his lengthy separation from his wife was grounds for divorce. The wife countered that she had been depressed during the separation and that she now intended to work on the marriage. The Nagoya Family Court found that “although the defendant’s actions at the time of the separation were influenced by depression and as such are not her fault, it is an unavoidable fact that the plaintiff lost all desire to reconcile during that period.” Saying nothing more about depression, the court ordered a divorce. But when the wife appealed to the Nagoya High Court, that court held that “because it is possible that the wife’s behavior that led to the husband’s thoughts of divorce were influenced by her depression, the husband should wait for her to recover, and he should wait for the opportunity to look forward to … married life when the influence of her illness has disappeared.” The court denied the divorce and offered no explanation for its reversal of the Family Court. It kept the couple together against one spouse’s will, a phenomenon we will see in more detail in chapter 6.61

In love suicide cases, the focus is not depression but love. In a 2001 case, the Sapporo High Court described the facts as follows:

In February 1998, the [thirty-three-year-old] defendant met the victim, who came as a customer to the pub at which the defendant worked. They soon began dating. The victim had a husband and children, and as such their relationship was an extramarital affair. After that, the woman became pregnant with the defendant’s child and had an abortion. In October 1998, the defendant left the nightlife business [mizu shōbai] and began working as a long-haul trucker. In January 1999, he was hospitalized after an epileptic seizure, and from the time the victim cared for him for about one month as he recovered, he fell madly in love with [tsuyoi ren’ai kanjō] her.

(p.45) At about the same time, she began to work as a hostess in a snack bar. The defendant was jealous of her interactions with male customers and asked her to leave the business. The victim began to dislike the defendant because of these things that he said, and she began to avoid him. Despite this change, the defendant continued to follow her around and wait near her house for her to come home.

After a heated encounter in which the victim pleaded with the defendant to leave her alone, he stabbed her twice in the chest. She begged him to take her to the hospital, pledging to quit her job if he did so. He put her in his car, where she begged him more: “I really will quit my job. I won’t tell anybody that you stabbed me. Just take me to a hospital.” The defendant had other ideas:

The defendant planned to stop by his house so he could die together with her, but he trembled as he heard these words. After a short amount of time passed because of his inability to start the car, he was faced with the decision of whether to go to his house to commit love suicide or to take her to the hospital. He started the car before he could decide, and he reached a crossing at which he could either go straight to the hospital or turn right and go to his house. He decided to forget his plans for going home and to believe her words. Deciding that her death now would be unacceptable, he turned right and they arrived at the hospital.

The victim lived. Curiously, at no point in its opinion did the court question the underlying logic of love suicide. It simply explained that the defendant had abandoned his intent to kill and was for that reason entitled to a reduced sentence of four and one-half years imprisonment.62 The use of the language of unrequited love—madly in love—suggests the court felt the defendant’s emotional state was relevant to the abandonment question, and the relevant emotion was not jealousy but love.

Japanese courts have ruled in many similarly scripted love suicide and family suicide cases. In one 2002 case, for instance, a wife strangled her sixty-eight-year-old husband in a hotel with a bathrobe belt in a planned double suicide designed to prevent them from becoming a burden to their children in their old age. Her suicide attempt failed, and she received a three-year sentence, suspended for four years (meaning that she will not serve her three-year sentence if she commits no other offense in the next (p.46) four years).63 In another case in which a man strangled his married girlfriend in a failed suicide pact, the court sentenced him to three years.64 The trend is relatively constant over time: in a well-publicized case from the 1950s, a woman and her lover attempted to poison and gas themselves because their parents would not consent to their marriage. They decided that they would kill the woman’s nine-year-old daughter from a previous marriage as well, on the ground that it would be sad for her to grow up without parents. In the end, the child died and the adults lived. The court denounced the evils of both love suicide (“a social problem that must be coldly condemned”) and parent-child suicide (“completely inapposite to a mother’s love”). But it also gave each of the defendants a three-year sentence, suspended for three years, again resulting in no jail time.65

Given the apparent begrudging acceptance of love suicide in the courts, it might seem that a claim of failed love suicide would be a convenient way to escape liability for murdering one’s lover. It happens. A 2007 case concerned a (married) fifty-five-year-old businessman and his lover of eighteen years, a bar hostess. Suspicious that her lover was cheating, the bar hostess strangled him in his sleep with the electrical cord of a curling iron. After killing him, she attempted suicide by cutting her neck and chest and taking sleeping pills but to no avail.

In court, the hostess claimed that her lover had consented to a joint suicide. Unlike the Love Hotel Suicide case, the court assumed these two were lovers and did not investigate whether they were truly in love (and did not discuss marital infidelity, either). Instead, it found that the lover killed out of anger over her lover’s affair and that she contradicted herself in her testimony when she said, “I didn’t think that he would agree if I said ‘die with me’ or ‘let’s commit love suicide together.’” The court found her guilty and sentenced her to eleven years’ imprisonment—but it did so only after seriously considering the possibility that the victim had consented to death in his sleep by curling-iron-cord strangulation.66

Finally, consider the painful love that arose from jealousy in the Kimono Belt Murder case. Yasuo and Kumiko had been married for nearly twenty years in 2006; he was a pediatrician and she managed his clinic. In 2004, Yasuo began e-mailing a “particular woman.” Kumiko discovered the e-mail on January 28, 2006, while Yasuo was away on a business trip. She felt “shock over the betrayal.” She wrote a suicide note to Yasuo and to her mother. When Yasuo returned the next day, she pledged to divorce him, became emotional, and cut the back of his head with scissors.

(p.47) The court stopped the narrative there, resuming with the night of February 14, Valentine’s Day, some two weeks later. While Yasuo was brushing his teeth, Kumiko grabbed the belt of a kimono, wrapped it around her own neck, and said, “Now I’m going to die on you [shinde yaru]. I’m going to do to you the thing that you hate the most.” She climbed over the handrail on the second floor of their home and stood on the edge, about fifteen feet above the first floor. When Yasuo did not stop her, she said, “You’re thinking it would be good if I die, aren’t you,” “I see the real you,” “You’re the devil,” and “You betrayer.” Kumiko slapped him in the face. He slapped her back. She said, “Oh, now you want to kill me?” and “A person who kills another person has no right to live.” She tried to return to the other side of the handrail. Yasuo did not allow her to come back; instead, he pulled on the ends of the belt, strangling her. Kumiko said, “But I love you! Why?” [aishiteru noni, dōshite], and then lost consciousness. Kumiko’s statement stands out in the court’s narrative not only for its pathos but also because it could have come only from Tetsuo’s testimony.

Kumiko fell to the first floor. Yasuo went downstairs and found her body crumpled with the belt still around her neck. He stepped on the belt with his foot and pulled the other end with his hand, strangling her to death.

Despite the “I’m going to die on you” language to a spouse, the court saw the case as murder, not assisted (love) suicide. It sentenced Yasuo to nine years’ imprisonment, explaining that the sentence took into account Yasuo’s remorse, the various payments he had made to Kumiko’s mother, his lack of criminal history, and a letter signed by 2,129 of his nursing students, fellow doctors, friends, patients, and acquaintances. The court was nevertheless notably harsh with Yasuo, noting that he had killed “a perfectionist, a person who would not treat lightly mistakes or wrongdoing. … To think that a woman like Kumiko, as a wife, could be asked to view a relationship with another woman as just a way for a man to relax is simply asking too much.”67 She loved him—according to his testimony as recounted in the court’s narrative, those were her last words—and with that love came her dramatic death.


The 1936 Sada Abé murder case, in which the defendant strangled her lover and carried his penis around for three days, is one of the most notorious crimes of twentieth-century Japan. In William Johnston’s insightful (p.48) study of the crime and its place in Japanese sexual and social history, he quotes Abé:

When I suggested that we commit a double suicide or run off together, [lover Kichizō] Ishida said that he wanted to go on meeting me at teahouses. When we met, Ishida had already made a success of himself and his business. There was no reason for him to think of committing suicide or of running off. I knew all too well that he would refuse my suggestions and didn’t even think of double suicide or of running off as serious options. So in the end, I decided that there was nothing I could do but kill him and make him mine forever.68

Johnston then comments on Abé’s statement:

These were words of love—more accurately, of desire—not of anger and hatred. Abe’s desire to make Ishida hers forever had the ring of a marriage proposal or pledge of commitment. Her decision to murder came from her positive feelings about their relationship combined with her recognition of the impossibility that it could continue on terms she could accept.69

Johnston seems to have it right: the murder was not about anger, hatred, or sex, as many had thought. It also seems correct to say that the murder came from positive feelings, not negative ones. But was it really above love, framed as desire or otherwise? Might it have been better characterized as obsession, domination, fear, jealousy, helplessness, or despair (some of which Johnston mentions elsewhere)? Are those things aspects of love? Of desire? Of passion?

These are the kinds of questions that are often asked—by scholars, media, the public—when trying to explore the reasons behind some kinds of murder. They are not usually legal questions, as it is usually impossible to determine when a person is in love. But as in the suicide cases, Japanese judges have a way of determining when a person is in love in murder cases: it is accompanied by suffering, pain, and tragedy.

In one murder case from 2002, Michael, a Philippine citizen, sneaked into Japan in the cargo hold of a ship in 1997. Marie, also a Philippine citizen, was a bar hostess who arrived in Japan on an entertainment visa in 1996. She married Akihiro, a Japanese man, in April 1997. The court then made a statement of causation: “because” Akihiro frequently played (p.49) mahjong outside of the house, Marie became “lonely,” and she began having sex with Michael.

Michael knew of Akihiro and was possessive of Marie. On one occasion, Marie’s cell phone rang when she was with Michael. Noticing that the call was from Akihiro, Michael answered and said, “We just finished having sex. Fuck you.” Akihiro became enraged. He summoned Marie to his office, where he stripped her, handcuffed her to the toilet, and beat her, extinguishing cigarettes on her body.

After this attack, Marie left Akihiro and “seriously considered divorce.” But when she heard a few weeks later that Akihiro was to marry another woman, she became jealous. She phoned Akihiro. They told each other that they “loved each other” (aishiteru), and Marie went to see him. They had sex that night.

The following morning, according to Marie, Michael entered the home she shared with Akihiro, showed Akihiro pictures of Michael having sex with her, and stabbed Akihiro to death in the heart. Michael’s story differed. According to his version, Marie called him to the home, and when he arrived, she had already stabbed Akihiro. Michael and Marie were in agreement on their post-mortem actions: they took Akihiro’s body to the bathtub, chopped it into pieces, put the pieces in trash bags, and threw the bags into the river. Prosecutors charged Michael with murder (and Marie with improper disposal of a corpse).

To evaluate these conflicting stories, the court first examined the forensic evidence (such as the amount of urine in Akihiro’s bladder, to determine the time of death). But the primary factor in the court’s decision was the nature of Marie’s two relationships. If Marie’s feelings for Michael were strong and her feelings for Akihiro were weak, perhaps she was the killer, and Michael was not. If Michael’s feelings for Marie were strong, perhaps Michael had killed in a jealous rage.

Marie told the police, “My feelings were complicated. Of course, I was sad that my husband had been killed, but I was also amazed that [Michael] would love someone like me so much that he would kill my husband. I was happy that he loved me that much, that he loved me so much that he would commit murder. These feelings were mingled and complicated.” In contrast, Michael claimed that Marie was his “sex friend” (sekkusu furendo), that they simply met for sex two or three times a week, and that he “did not love her.”

(p.50) If the court had thought Michael’s admitted sexual relationship sufficient to cause a murderous jealous rage, the inquiry might have ended there. But it seems to have assumed that a mere sexual relationship could not provoke such extreme action. Only the far more powerful emotion of love could compel a person to commit such an irrational and heinous act.

The court launched an independent investigation into Michael’s love. It noted that Marie had sex with a third man besides Akihiro at the same time that she was sleeping with Michael. Michael phoned the third man three times, once to ask why Marie was crying, once to announce that he had had sex with her, and once to state that he had a videotape of himself having sex with her. The court took these actions to be evidence of Michael’s jealousy—and thus also of his love.

At the same time, the court uncovered what it regarded as even more reliable evidence of Michael’s love. According to testimony, one of Michael’s friends who dropped by Michael’s house remarked that he looked as if he had not slept. When the friend asked why, Michael responded by pulling from his wallet a photograph of himself with Marie, on the back of which was written, “We will work together to get over this.” In view of the friend, Michael cut the photo into pieces with scissors while sobbing, “I’m sorry.” The court explicitly noted that this act as evidence that Michael had “deep feelings of love” (fukai aijō) for Marie—not merely love, but deep feelings of love. Deep love, the court found, was the motive to kill. The court found Michael guilty and sentenced him to fifteen years’ imprisonment.70

The court, then, found evidence of Michael and Marie’s love in suffering. Marie’s love did not manifest itself as giddy daydreams or butterflies in her stomach; rather, she continued to profess love for her husband even after he handcuffed her to a toilet and beat her. Michael’s love appeared not as romantic wistfulness over lost love but as a tragic, destructive emotional train wreck. He might jealously have destroyed the couple’s photographs even if he had not been the murderer—but the court saw that act as evidence of guilt.

We have seen survey evidence suggesting that many Japanese people, especially men, believe that “Jealousy usually varies directly with love; that is, the more in love you are, the greater the tendency for you to become jealous.”71 The court’s opinion expresses a similar sentiment. Although Michael’s jealousy might have been fueled by feelings of possession, sexual attraction, or other complex emotions or disorders, the court declared it to be firmly rooted in love, ignoring the other possibilities.

(p.51) The court based its telling of the story almost entirely on the testimony of non-Japanese witnesses, a fact that makes the court’s narrative all the more interesting. Of course, it is not clear how the actual testimonies of the witnesses differed, if at all, from the story eventually penned by the court. But no matter what the courtroom drama was, the court presented the case through the lens of love as suffering.

This link between love and suffering in murder cases frequently emerges in the sentencing context. Japanese law has only one basic homicide statute (Penal Code art. 199): “A person who kills another shall be punished.” Unlike the law of most U.S. states, Japan does not distinguish among first-degree aggravated murder, ordinary murder, and homicide that occurs in the heat of passion, due to provocation, or because of “extreme mental or emotional disturbance.” Instead, Japanese judges make informal distinctions for sentencing purposes. One factor that is especially important is the defendant’s emotions—including love.

One such case from 2003 involved twenty-three-year-old Hitomi Harada, the host of a satellite television program about professional wrestling, and twenty-six-year-old Hiroshi Tanahashi, a professional wrestler. According to the court, the two met after Hitomi sent Hiroshi a “fan letter,” thus initiating a sexual relationship that lasted six months. Hiroshi then told Hitomi that he had another girlfriend, his “first love” (hatsukoi) from high school. Stunned by the news, “she hid her true feelings and had sex with him.” He then told Hitomi that he wanted to continue his relationship with her anyway. She felt betrayed and decided that she would “kill him and then kill herself.” She took a six-inch knife to bed with her and planned to kill Hiroshi in his sleep, but she was psychologically unable to do so.

The next morning, as Hiroshi headed off to practice, Hiromi begged him to stay for “just one more minute” while she lay in bed. “Well, just one minute, then,” he said, as he turned his back to her and stared at the second hand on the clock, waiting contemptuously for exactly sixty seconds to pass. She suddenly felt that “if he left, he would never return, and she felt loneliness and desperation well up inside her, and she decided to kill him and herself. Then, she sat up in bed with her legs folded, pulled the knife out from under the covers where she had hidden it, grasped it with her right hand, and swung it up near her head.” She stabbed Hiroshi twice in the back. He fled, and she chased him, naked, outside the house, but she was unable to inflict further injury to him (or to herself).

(p.52) After finding Hitomi guilty of attempted murder, the court needed to determine her sentence. It described the act in context, noting that it occurred “when the defendant heard from her beloved’s [saiai no hito] mouth that he wanted to date the woman who was his first love.” The court’s superfluous description of the victim as the defendant’s “beloved” is intriguing. Perhaps it was trying to communicate to the defendant that it at least had listened carefully to her testimony. But the word is also frequently used in the case law to present the victim in a sympathetic light, as when the Tokyo District Court found in a different case that a wife had been murdered by “the husband who was supposed to be her beloved.”72

In Hitomi’s case too, the court seems to have been employing “beloved” to portray the defendant as a lovestruck, suffering creature—a victim of love. It found that Hitomi had taken responsibility for her actions, had reached an appropriate financial settlement with Hiroshi, and had been “forgiven” (yūjo) by him. It sentenced her to three years in prison (prosecutors had sought five years’ imprisonment) but suspended the sentence for four years so that she served no jail time.73

Consider a second sentencing case from the Wakayama District Court. Masako was engaged to Teraya; they had known each other seven or eight months. He began to behave oddly. They met at a coffee shop to talk. There he told her that he suspected her of seeing another man and that he no longer wanted to marry her. She begged him to change his mind. That night, Masako revealed to Teraya that she was pregnant with his child and pleaded for him to stay with her. His attitude did not change. When he kissed her, she bit his tongue as hard as possible and then strangled him with an electric cord. He suffocated from the blood and the pressure on his windpipe. Prosecutors charged her with murder.

In sentencing Masako, the court noted that she was shocked, betrayed, young, and remorseful and that she acted on impulse. But equally telling was the setup of the story, in which the court found abundant love: the couple “fell in love with one another” (aishiau), Masako was afraid that their love (aijō) would end, and this was a “tragic case of the collapse of engagement and of the love [ren’ai] of a young man and woman.” For the brutal murder, the court sentenced Masako to only two and one-half years in prison.74 The case is from 1960, and I suspect that a contemporary court would place less emphasis on the engagement. But otherwise, the court’s language is similar to that of modern courts, suggesting that the characterization of (p.53) love as pain runs deep, even in the judiciary, and even back to a time in which love was not as socially prevalent as it is today.

The court’s strategies with the husband-murdering Michael, the wrestler-stabbing Hitomi, and the tongue-biting Masako were remarkably similar. In each case, the court chose love as the appropriate means of framing the issues. In Michael’s case, the court cited his spiteful love as evidence that he killed his lover’s husband; in Hitomi’s and Masako’s cases, love was a reason to mitigate punishment for the fragile lover. In each case, spite, jealousy, or anger would have sufficed, but the language the court chose was love.

The language of passion and emotion as devices for judicial decision making is even more visible in the sentencing of death-penalty murder cases, in which judges have a starkly binary choice of life or death. Roughly two percent of Japan’s murderers receive the death penalty.75 The Japanese Supreme Court has held that imposition of the death penalty requires an examination of the nature of the crime, the defendant’s motivations, the heinous nature of the crime, the number of victims, the pain felt by the victims’ families, the influence on society, and the defendant’s age, criminal history, and actions after the crime.76

As in the love suicide cases, the rhetoric of love often seeps into the death penalty standards, turning the judiciary into adjudicators of love. In cases in which love is an issue, the defendant tends to live if he is in love and die if he is not. The victims in the following three exemplary cases were, in order, the defendant’s (a) girlfriend and four family members (the 1997 Hostess Family Stabbing case), (b) wife and two children (ages 10 and 17) (the 1991 Valentine’s Day Murder case), and (c) wife and foster father (the 2007 Life Insurance Murder case). The perpetrators were all men, the facts have some similarities, and in each case the statute merely states that “a person who kills another shall be punished.” Yet only the defendant in the third case was sentenced to death.

First, in the Hostess Family Stabbing case, the defendant, Hideo, was a forty-one-year-old bar owner. He hired Toshiko, age thirty-nine, to work at the bar as a hostess. They began a sexual relationship and he soon proposed marriage. When her family opposed the marriage and she refused Hideo’s proposal, he became furious. He went to her house, where she lived with her family. Using a sashimi knife, he stabbed Toshiko, her seventy-one-year-old mother, and her three children, ages six, thirteen, and fourteen. Two died from blood loss.

(p.54) The Tokyo District Court sentenced Hideo to death. It reasoned that he began his relationship with Toshiko and sought to marry her because he wanted to live in her newly constructed house and knew that she would receive an apartment as an inheritance. When she refused, he became angry, and he killed her and her family.

Hideo raised four arguments on appeal to the Tokyo High Court, two of which are relevant here. First, he argued that the district court failed to recognize his unstable mental state at the time of the crime. He argued that he was emotionally distressed and drunk. The high court disagreed; the lower court had considered the results of a psychiatric evaluation and had properly determined that Hideo was not drunk at the time of the killing. “At the time,” the court declared, “the defendant was fully able to appreciate the wrongfulness of his actions.”

Second, Hideo argued that he had been improperly sentenced. The high court first reviewed the district court’s reasoning as follows:

The defendant became attached [shūchaku] to Toshiko, pursuant to his feelings that he wanted to live with her or marry her. The lower court decision found, as a factor in sentencing, that “The direct cause of the crime was that the defendant, who lacked the ability to make a living on his own, would be able to live in a new house with Toshiko, with whom he had developed a sexual relationship, and he paired with her knowing that in the future he would be able to inherit her apartment as well.” With no reference to the fact that the defendant had feelings of longing [renbo] and the passionate relationship [aiyoku kankei] of a middle-aged man and woman, the main reason behind the defendant’s attachment to Toshiko would seem to be the pursuit of money.

The high court found a different motivation. It noted that Toshiko “showed the defendant kindness that he had never before seen in his relationships with women.” There was evidence that Hideo became jealous when Toshiko flirted with customers and developed a “lingering attachment” (miren) to her. Finally, the court found:

An examination of the defendant’s history with women shows that he easily developed relationships and spoke of marriage and so on with female employees of restaurants and bars that he managed. Viewed from this perspective, it can be seen as natural that the main reason the defendant was attached to Toshiko was his strong feelings of longing [renbo] for her.

(p.55) The court, then, found that Hideo’s attachment to Toshiko was based on longing, lingering attachment, and jealousy, not monetary gain. That, along with additional evidence of suffering—namely, that shortly after the murders Hideo doused himself with lighter fluid in an attempt to kill himself—led the court to reduce his sentence. In the court’s words, “we must hesitate to impose on the defendant the most extreme sentence and instead find it appropriate to impose a sentence of lifetime imprisonment, during which time the defendant can reflect deeply on his actions, spend all of his life praying for the repose of the victim’s souls, and, with a grave attitude, can atone.”77

The court did not invoke the evidence of Hideo’s feelings for Toshiko in its discussion of Hideo’s mental state; the important issues in that context were the psychiatric report and the evidence of intoxication. Nor did emotional longing excuse Hideo’s actions. Instead, the court used Hideo’s feelings in the sentencing stage, finding simply that “longing” and “lingering attachment” were less blameworthy motivations than money.

The court’s logic is no more explicit than that, but it seems to be saying two things about the role of emotions. First, painful emotions like jealousy and longing are legitimate bases for a relationship. When the court discusses longing and monetary gain, it discusses them as motivations not for murder but for attachment. The court spared Hideo’s life because his attachment to Toshiko was based on emotion and not a strategic calculation.

Second, the court implies that a person who is experiencing the pain of love deserves sympathy. It painted Hideo as a hapless suitor: he was smitten by Toshiko’s simple acts of kindness because women in his prior relationships had never been so attentive, he was jealous of Toshiko’s flirting with customers despite the fact that she was a hostess, and he frequently fell for his female employees quickly. In view of this history, it seems quite possible that Hideo, like the fifteen percent of Japanese men in the survey data, might have believed that love is “complex and sometimes leads to pain.”78 It also seems quite likely that the court gave Hideo a break not only because he had proper intentions when he entered into the relationship but also because his pain fit a familiar and sympathy-worthy pattern.

The Hostess Family Stabbing case focused on the defendant’s emotional state and did not implicate Toshiko, the lover in the center of the turmoil, directly. In the following Valentine’s Day Murder case, the court described a similar set of lovelorn emotions but turned the focus slightly (p.56) toward the lover. The court began the troubled narrative of the defendant, Hisao, with the developmental problems of his younger daughter, who was born prematurely and was unable to speak. Hisao blamed his wife for the daughter’s problems, as his wife had ridden a bicycle during her pregnancy despite his orders not to do so (a Japanese folk belief holds that riding on a bicycle or sitting on a cold surface during pregnancy can cause problems at birth).79 As the daughter grew older, the topic became “taboo” conversation between Hisao and his wife.

The tensions produced by this taboo topic, the court said, made Hisao’s house a terrible place to live. His older daughter started middle school and consistently had problems of absence, tardiness, and violations of school rules. Yelling in the home and parental trips to meet with middle school teachers became frequent.

Hisao began visiting a bar, where he met a hostess the court referred to as “[hereinafter,] the lover [aijin],” a word used exclusively for adulterous relationships.80 “The lover” is not a frequently used term in Japanese court opinions: usually such a woman would be referred to as the “adultery partner” (furin aite). But this court used “the lover” fifty-seven times in its nine-page opinion. According to the opinion, “the couple began a sexual relationship, and the joy he felt was such that it could not even be compared to his ordinary married lifestyle. He became unable to forget the lover, he called her every day, arranged dates, and saw her secretly.”

The relationship escalated. Hisao bought the lover gifts of clothing and furniture. He paid her rent at a new apartment that he arranged for her. Every day he would meet her at her apartment, they would have sex, and he would drive her to the bar where she worked. He had a vasectomy for her. They took trips together.

But eventually the relationship began to sour. Hisao began to discover “aspects of his lover’s personality that he did not like.” He ended their relationship. And yet two weeks later, his “lingering affection” (miren) for her brought the two together again.

At home, Hisao’s relationship with his wife, who knew of the lover, worsened. They talked of divorce. Hisao began to think that things might be better if the entire family were “killed in an auto accident.”

The last straw came on the night before Valentine’s Day. It is worth noting here that Valentine’s Day has played a fateful and conspicuous role in this chapter; Hisao’s case is the third in which Valentine’s Day (p.57) emerges as the backdrop for a love-fueled death (and I did not choose those cases for that purpose). As in the United States, Valentine’s Day in Japan is usually celebrated with dinner dates and gifts of chocolate. In Japan, women give chocolate to men, with a careful distinction made between girichoco, chocolate given out of obligation, and honkichoko, chocolate given out of true feelings. Men reciprocate with chocolate on White Day, a 1978 invention of the National Confectionary Industry Association, a month later.

In the Love Suicide case, Kimiko bought Tetsuo a necktie on Valentine’s Day and he strangled her with it five days later. In the Kimono Belt Murder case, Yasuo strangled Kumiko to death after he pushed her over the railing on Valentine’s Day. The day arises in other problematic legal contexts as well. In an action brought by a jilted wife against her husband’s mistress (more on this kind of lawsuit in chapter 5), the Tokyo District Court noted specifically that until divorce was imminent, the couple “spent Valentine’s Day together as usual” (on White Day the following month, the husband brought the wife a present and a divorce notice, the reasons for which she did not understand until she learned of the other woman).81 The reference to Valentine’s Day served as emotional evidence of the health of the couple’s relationship.

On the eve of this particular Valentine’s Day, Hisao visited his lover at her bar and asked if he could call on her the next day. She “flatly refused” him, and he was struck with “how completely different her attitude was from the previous year’s Valentine’s Day.” Dejected, he returned home. He was greeted by the “neighborhood wives” in front of his home who said, “You’re really home early, aren’t you? That’s rare.” These comments, the court said, made him “hateful and angry,” words that suggest impending doom.

The mood and the story now turn palpably darker. Hisao’s house was empty and there was no food on the table. Irritated, he fixed his own dinner and began to drink. When his family returned home, he went out to play pachinko. When he ran out of money, he returned home, carrying an aluminum baseball bat that he apparently had prepared before he left. He found his forty-three-year-old wife and his ten-year-old daughter asleep upstairs. He beat his wife once in the head with the bat; she turned, expressed pain, and he beat her twice more. He went to his ten-year-old’s room and struck her twice in the head as she slept. She died.

(p.58) Hisao’s older daughter, seventeen years old, tried to escape. He caught her. They struggled over the bat, but Hisao won. His daughter held her hands in front of her face and pleaded for her life repeatedly: “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, Dad. I’ll quit school and get a job! I’ll leave home!” “It’s too late for that,” Hisao responded. He hit her in the face with the baseball bat. When she fell to the ground, he beat her head twice more. She died.

Hisao went to the front door and retrieved a kerosene tank that he had prepared. He went upstairs to the master bedroom, soaked a bedsheet in kerosene and lit it on fire next to his wife’s body. When she appeared to stir, he pressed her face into the bed with his hand until she died. He went to his ten-year-old daughter’s room, poured kerosene on her body and around the room, and set fire to a cushion that lay on top of her. She died. He burned the house to the ground.

When the Fukuoka District Court characterized Hisao’s mental process prior to the grisly killings, it discussed Hisao’s daughter’s developmental problems but focused on Hisao’s lover: “The sexual relationship he began with the lover was better than anything he had experienced before. … When his relationship with the lover soured, he became mentally distressed and unable to think logically. … He began to think that if he killed his family members he would become free and able to improve his relationship with the lover. … The sinking relationship with the lover was a primary cause.” Moreover, the court explained, “until [Hisao] began seeing the lover, he was an upstanding citizen who lived a normal social and home life.”

Prosecutors sought the death penalty, but the court, after citing a psychiatric report that maintained that Hisao was aware of the wrongfulness of his actions, sentenced him to life imprisonment. Hisao’s emotions saved him. His cold lover crushed him on Valentine’s Day, his pain was therefore legitimate, and the rules of normal behavior were suspended for him.82

Prosecutors appealed the sentence to the Fukuoka High Court. (Japan’s constitution prohibits double jeopardy, but prosecutors may appeal acquittals and sentences because the trial and its appeals are considered to be a single jeopardy.83) That court found that Hisao’s crimes were not premeditated and that he did not have an antisocial or criminal nature. Instead, the crimes occurred as a results of Hisao’s “worsening relationships with his lover and his wife” (the high court used the term “lover” forty-eight times in eight pages). Then, after the court stated that it “cannot help but feel (p.59) sympathy for the victims’ families,” it affirmed the lower court’s ruling, holding simply that Hisao’s crimes did not merit death.84

In both the Hostess Family Stabbing case and the Valentine’s Day Murder case, suffering love saved the defendants from the gallows. But sometimes the logic works in reverse. In the Life Insurance Murder case, company executive Kiyotaka Ōyama was charged with murdering his foster father in 1998 and his wife in 2000 in order to receive $730,000 in life insurance proceeds. Ōyama hit his sixty-six-year-old father on the head with an iron dumbbell, propped him up in a car, and slammed the car into a wall to make the death appear accidental. He killed his wife, thirty-eight-year-old Hiromi, by drowning her in the bathtub after giving her sedatives and having sex with her. He then dumped her body in the sea from a pier at Hiroshima Port and claimed that she had fallen into the water during a fishing trip.

Prosecutors argued that because Ōyama’s motivations were coldly monetary (and thus devoid of emotion), he deserved the death penalty. Ōyama argued that he deserved life in prison because his motivations were more complex. In his father’s case, he claimed, he killed in part because the two disagreed about how to liquidate his bankrupt firm and in part because he suspected that his father had killed his mother, whose death had been ruled a suicide. The Hiroshima High Court sided with prosecutors and found that Ōyama killed his father to receive insurance money, which he used to pay off massive debts.

Ōyama then argued that he killed Hiromi because she “kept badgering him about how the insurance proceeds were to be divided,” and he feared she would discover his crime. As the court explained, “The defendant thought that if [Hiromi] discovered his lies, she would be disgusted with him, divorce him, and marry another man. As he had these thoughts, he decided that if he killed her, he would prevent her from the distress she would otherwise feel upon learning the truth, and at the same time he would save himself from the sight of Hiromi marrying another man.” His claim rested on love:

Through his counsel …, the defendant argues that his motivation to kill cannot easily be explained. It is impossible to understand, he argues, how he could form an “extremely strong intent” to kill his wife, whom he loved deeply [fukai aijō]. There is a huge disconnect, he claims, between brooding (p.60) over the fact that his beloved wife [saiai no tsuma] would not forgive him for his actions and killing her, and therefore no adequate explanation has been offered for why he killed his wife or of the events that preceded her death. It is clear, he argues, that there is no way to reconcile his deep love for Hiromi with the charge that her murder evidenced his lack of love for her.

The court responded in turn to the defendant’s argument by using his own language of love:

The defendant decided to kill [Hiromi] to prevent her from learning the truth and divorcing him. It can therefore be said that the defendant’s “love” [punctuation in original] ultimately meant simply that he did not want to lose her, wanted to keep her for himself and away from other men, and wanted to prevent her from being stolen away. Motivated by these factors, he decided to kill his wife. His argument that his motivation to kill Hiromi was not adequately explained has no merit.

In another section of the opinion, the court examined the appropriateness of the death penalty. It described the heinous nature of the crime: Hiromi was killed while she was completely naked. She cried out “Why? Why?” as she struggled against the defendant in the tub. She called for their twelve-year-old son to help her as she drowned. She was only thirty-eight years old. She had two school-age children. Finally, “most significantly … there are no words to describe the pitifulness of the sadness [Hiromi] must have felt as she was betrayed by her husband, whom she had loved [aishitsuzuketekita] and trusted.” The court ordered that Ōyama hang for his “cold-blooded” crimes.85

Love played three important roles in the Life Insurance Murder case. First, the court used Hiromi’s love to highlight the depths of Ōyama’s crimes. The most significant aspect of Hiromi’s murder was not the children she left behind, the physical pain she experienced, or the dehumanizing way in which her body was unceremoniously dumped into the ocean—it was the suffering, painful betrayal by the husband whom she loved deeply (a finding for which the court offered no evidence).86

Second, that the couple had intercourse immediately before the murder reflected a further betrayal of Hiromi’s feelings. The court stated that the couple “entered the warm bath together immediately after having sex, an act in which the love of a husband and wife are confirmed.” The court, (p.61) then, found love—and marriage—in the act of sex. The linking of the three, as we will see, is an atypical romantic statement for a court, an expression of an unachievable ideal. Here, the court seems to be using the expression for the specific purpose of turning Ōyama’s love-confirming act into one of betrayal, increasing his blameworthiness in the murder of his loving wife.

Finally, the defendant’s absence of love led to his death sentence. The defendant claimed that he loved his wife, but the court, defining love as separate from jealousy or possessiveness, found that he did not. If love was not behind the murder, if the killings could not be framed in the identifiable rhetoric of the defendant’s suffering love, he should receive the maximum penalty.

In these death-penalty cases, then, as in cases of love suicide, love is a form of pain. In the Hostess Family Stabbing and the Valentine’s Day Murder cases, the pain of love saved the defendants from the gallows, as courts seem to have found their emotions appropriate. Conversely, in the Life Insurance Murder case, the absence of pain, and the comparatively painful love of the victim, doomed the defendant, whose emotions were entirely inappropriate.

Consider a final type of love-as-suffering homicide case that has similarities both to the love suicide cases and the murder cases: euthanasia. In a 1985 case, a fifty-four-year-old woman learned she had terminal cancer. After enduring several hospital stays and chronic pain, she decided in 1990 that she wanted to die. Her husband of twenty-seven years attempted three times to help her do so. The first time, he placed his wife in their car and attempted to poison her with carbon monoxide fumes. He failed. The second time, he decided to die with his wife in a love suicide by driving their car off a cliff but they were unable to find a cliff.

The third time, the husband placed his wife in the bathtub and guided her hand with his as she cut her carotid artery with a razor. The cut was not deep enough. At her request, he sliced the artery again. She bled to death.

Pursuant to precedent, Japanese courts do not punish euthanasia if (a) the victim has a disease that cannot be cured with modern medical knowledge and technology and will lead to death in the near future, (b) the victim is in pain, (c) the killing is intended to ease the victim’s pain, (d) the victim consents to the killing if he has the ability to make decisions, (e) the death is (“should be”) effected by a doctor, and (f) the method used (p.62) is appropriate according to the sense of society (shakai tsū nenjō).87 The court found that in this case, the woman’s husband failed the last two steps: a doctor was not involved, and other less painful methods of suicide were available. The court sentenced the defendant to three years’ imprisonment, mercifully suspended for one year.88

The test and its application seem straightforward. But the court’s decision contained one additional element, and by now it can easily be guessed. Before the court applied the test, it stated “for all of the victim’s life, the defendant devoted all his energy into caring for and watching her, and accordingly we can confirm [mitomerareru] that their love as husband and wife [fūfuai] was wide and deep.” The court’s intent surely was to soften the blow of the guilty verdict, to clarify that although the defendant failed the legal test, he did not kill out of anger or hatred. The court could have done so with many different turns of phrase, but it chose to do so—as other courts have repeatedly done in similar situations89—with the rhetoric of love. The court gave no explicit basis for its determination of love, perhaps because the suffering of husband and wife was sufficiently clear evidence of its existence.


In 1999, twenty-one-year-old university student Shiori Ino was stalked by an ex-boyfriend and his accomplices. She appealed to the police, who were unresponsive. She filed a complaint against the police for their inaction. Soon thereafter, she was stabbed to death near Okegawa station. The national outrage over the police’s mishandling of the “Okegawa Incident” led to the passage of an antistalking law in 2000 by unanimous vote.90

The Antistalking Law criminalizes a list of broadly described activities, including “following, waiting near, or visiting the victim’s home, office, school, or other places the victim frequents,” “demanding to meet or interact with the victim when she has no obligation to do so,” “making silent phone calls,” and “acting or behaving extremely rudely to the victim.” The law also provides that a person who commits these acts violates the law only if he “repeatedly” commits the acts against a victim (or the victim’s spouse, relatives, or other persons with whom the victim is close) “for the purpose of satisfying feelings of love [ren’ai kanjō, alternatively, ‘romantic’ or ‘amorous’ feelings] or other feelings of affection for a specific person, (p.63) or for the purpose of satisfying feelings of revenge [enkon, alternatively, ‘grudge’] when one’s love is unrequited.”

This statutory language is striking: harassment is illegal under the statute only when it is based on “feelings of love or other feelings of affection … [or] feelings of revenge.” If the court is persuaded that a harasser is not acting on feelings of love or love-fueled revenge, he is not stalking. Legislators pointed out problems of interpretation of love both when the bill was being revised and after its passage, but the language remained in the statute.91 It is the only statute in all of Japanese law that contains the word ren’ai (love, or romantic relationship),92 and the only one that requires a court to make a decision based on the existence of love between adults.

Most U.S. states define stalking as harassment that causes or is likely to cause fear, emotional distress, or harm. The victim is the focus: how was she or he affected by the behavior at issue? In Japan, the lens is reversed. Because harassment is illegal under the statute only when it is based on “feelings of love or other feelings of affection,” it is the painful feelings of the stalker, not the victim, that are at issue.

Still, the Japanese statute has a U.S. parallel. In the domestic violence context in the United States, six states allow a person to request a civil protection order against a partner in an “intimate” or “romantic” relationship.93 In one such state, Arkansas, a court found a “romantic relationship” where a couple “spent time outside of work together, they had sexual relations together ‘multiple times’; they spent the night together; they went to eat and to the movies together, and they spent time together in the presence of the victim’s children.”94 Other states require a “dating” relationship. In New Jersey, for instance, courts ask six questions (such as “How long did the alleged dating activities continue prior to the alleged acts of domestic violence?”) that are so formulaic that courts literally fit the questions and their answers into a grid.95

The Japanese law for both domestic violence and stalking is different. In the domestic violence context, orders of protection can be filed only against a spouse, relieving Japanese courts of the task of determining whether a couple is “dating,” “romantic,” or “intimate” as required in those U.S. states.96 In the stalking context, instead of focusing on objective evidence of a relationship as in New Jersey, the Japanese law focuses directly on the feelings of the stalker. The law’s drafters could have specified those feelings in many different ways, perhaps as jealousy or possessiveness, just as (p.64) they included a requirement of “feelings of revenge.” But they didn’t. To define stalking, they chose love.

Why did the legislature choose this formulation, which requires a court to determine the existence of love? As we have seen, courts make that judgment often, but why did the legislature unanimously mandate it? When the bill’s sponsor, Representative Ryū ji Matsumura, faced that question during committee deliberations, he said the legislation was intended to respond to the “common situations” of stalking ex-spouses and ex-lovers, as described by the National Police Agency. He then said that the “love” formulation was intended “to minimize the scope of regulation over citizens as much as possible.”97 Scholarly commentary on the law offers a similar explanation: the narrow language was intended to avoid problems of regulating harassment in the business context, in labor movements, and in religious activities, each of which would have been more controversial.98

The language is as ambiguous as it is broad. In the same committee deliberations, Representative Kantoku Teruya asked, “I have a pretty good understanding of what you mean by ‘feelings of love’ or ‘feelings of revenge,’ but what is your thinking on the phrase ‘other feelings of affection’?” Matsumura responded:

I am not a lawyer, so please bear that in mind, but “other feelings of affection” in the law [means] general feelings of liking someone [sukina kimochi] or feelings of affection [shin’aikan] … and not just pleasant [konomashii] feelings. … To take just one example, and this is only one example, if someone has feelings of longing for an actress or a newscaster whom they see on television, those are not “feelings of love,” but they are “other feelings of affection.”99

Matsumura’s lack of a detailed explanation for “other feelings of affection” suggests that the language might present courts with difficulty. But consider the preface to Representative Teruya’s question: he stated that he already had a good idea of what “feelings of love” meant. Teruya might simply have been posturing, but perhaps he did understand the meaning, or he at least understood that it is distinguishable from feelings that one has for an actress or a newscaster. Perhaps there is a consensus in Japan as to whether a person’s feelings fit the Japanese conception of love.

The tone of court opinions on stalking suggests that the cases indeed are decided easily.100 Some cases are particularly simple, as when an accused (p.65) stalker specifically states in her deposition that she holds feelings of love for the lover.101 Courts’ all-knowing tone persists, though, even when stalkers claim they are not in love. In a 2004 Tokyo High Court case, the suspected stalker had distributed four letters and sixty-six naked pictures of his ex-girlfriend to mailboxes at her apartment complex. He claimed that his purpose was not to “satisfy his feelings of love” but “to make sure he had a way of communicating in order to end [seisan shori, alternatively, ‘gain closure on’] the relationship.”

The court noted that the two had dated, lived together, and planned to marry. The victim gradually grew to dislike the defendant, and she tried to end the relationship. She was initially unsuccessful; he continued to send her presents and proposed to her. She finally stopped having sex with him and then ignored his phone calls and e-mails. After his arrest, the court said, “the defendant’s statement clearly shows mixed feelings of love and hate [aizō], and his letters were threatening and critical. Even if the defendant is correct that his purpose was to ensure a method of communication in order to end the relationship, it still can be said that he was acting to satisfy his feelings of love.” The court found him guilty.102

In a similar case from 2007, the defendant, Tetsuya, was charged with stalking his thirty-year-old ex-wife, who had custody of their children. The evidence showed that at various times he had waited for her at her apartment, pressured her to talk to him, jumped over a fence onto her veranda, pushed her, and spied on her at work from his car. Tetsuya argued that he committed these acts not “to satisfy his feelings of love” but because he was curious about how his children were being raised.

As in the previous case, the court reviewed the evidence of love. The victim testified that Tetsuya had said, “You’re coming home in the morning after spending the night with a man? Have you got a boyfriend? Get together with me one more time.” The victim’s father testified that Tetsuya told him that he still had feelings (suki) for his ex-wife. The court found the statements credible.

The more important factor to the court seems to have been Tetsuya’s own statements. Tetsuya claimed that he could not be in love with his ex-wife because he already had a girlfriend at the time of the incidents. The court found that he indeed had a girlfriend but that the relationship began after he stalked his ex-wife. With no girlfriend at the time, he must have remained in love, the court reasoned, with his ex and be therefore guilty. (p.66) The court sentenced Tetsuya to two years’ imprisonment, suspended for four years—in other words, no jail time.103

Return now to the Okegawa stalking case, the case that led to the Anti-stalking Law’s passage. The presiding judge in the 2001 murder trial at the district court, Yoshiharu Shimoyama, was forced to recuse himself after he was caught dozing during the trial. Seven years later, he was arrested—for stalking a female court employee thirty years his junior. The Kofu District Court found the e-mail that he sent to her cell phone “cunning and vicious,” characteristics the court deemed compatible with the requisite feelings of love.104

The courtroom might seem to be a particularly awkward place for determinations of love to occur. But as we have seen, Japanese judges frequently extrapolate love from the facts of the cases while interpreting the rules of the state. That process reveals a complex and fascinating relationship between the “law” of the state and the “nonlaw” of everyday life, a tangled knot in which the statutory categories of aiding suicide, murder, and stalking are defined not by a purportedly precise analysis of mental states as in the United States but by a more intuitive examination of emotions.

In conducting these examinations, with no legislative guidance, judges could have defined or described love any way they wished. Perhaps something like this:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.105

Comparing Japanese courts’ conception of love differs to this prescriptive Biblical ideal is unfair, but the extent of the difference between the two is staggering. Although I cannot be sure if love in Japanese opinions delights in evil, it seems to miss every other point in the checklist. With Japan’s ostensibly strict rules of interpersonal behavior, we might have expected courts to define love either dispassionately or in ways not too dissimilar from the Biblical version to stifle disorderly, out-of-control emotions. And yet the picture of Japanese love that emerges from the opinions is that of an uncontrollable force that allows for the weakening of rules of (p.67) ordinary behavior, a love full of danger, heartache, excitement, excess, and tragedy.

Some of those aspects of love surely are desirable: although patience and kindness are nice, who has a quarrel with excitement? But what seems to be missing from most of the cases is a caring, interpersonal connection. Qualities like nurturing and sustainability might be difficult for judges to determine, but they seem no more so than lovesick pain and suffering, factors on which they routinely rely.


(1.) See Dana Goodyear, I ♥ Novels, New Yorker, Dec. 22, 2008, 62.

(2.) See Laura Kipnis, Against Love: A Polemic 3 (2003) (“Love is, as everyone knows, a mysterious and all-controlling force, with vast power over our thoughts and life decisions. Love is boss, and a demanding one too: it demands our loyalty. We, in turn, freely comply—or as freely as the average subject in thrall to an all-powerful master, as freely as indendured servants.”)

(3.) Carolyn H. Simmons, Alexander Vom Kolke, and Hideko Shimizu, Attitudes Toward Romantic Love Among American, German, and Japanese Students, 126(3) J. Soc. Psychology 327, 332 (1986).

(5.) Susan Sprecher et al., Love: American Style, Russian Style, and Japanese Style, 1 Personal Relationships 349 (1994). See also Stella Ting-Toomey, Intimacy Expressions in Three Cultures: France, Japan, and the United States, 15 Int’l J. Intercultural Relations 29 (1991) (finding more “love commitment in France and the U.S. than in Japan”).

(6.) Christine R. Yano, Tears of Longing: Nostalgia and the Nation in Japanese Popular Song 148–56 (2002).

(7.) Naho Tanimoto, Ren’ai no Shakaigaku [The Sociology of Love] 147–50 (2008).

(8.) Osaka District Court, 2006 (wa) 4737 (Oct. 1, 2007); Kofu District Court, 2005 (wa) 270 (Mar. 25, 2006); Intellectual Property High Court, 2005 (ne) 10060 (Jan. 25, 2006).

(9.) Osaka District Court, 2007 (wa) 3024 (Feb. 7, 2008); Kofu District Court, 2004 (wa) 282 (Apr. 26, 2007).

(10.) Mito Family Court, 1999 (ka) 23 (July 22, 1999).

(11.) Tokyo District Court, 2002 (yo) 21038 (June 20, 2002).

(12.) Osaka District Court, 2001 (u) 605 (Oct. 16, 2001).

(13.) Okayama District Court, 1593 Hanrei Jihō 146 (Aug. 4, 1995).

(14.) Kyoto District Court, 2000 (wa) 1480 (Feb. 26, 2002); Nagoya District Court, 1542 Han-rei Jihō 26 (Feb. 9, 1995).

(15.) Tokyo District Court, 842 Hanrei Times 160 (Dec. 16, 1993).

(16.) Osaka District Court, 1978 (wa) 6006 (July 15, 1980).

(17.) Tokyo District Court, 1796 (wa) 818 (Dec. 19, 1986),

(18.) Tokyo District Court, 1070 Hanrei Jihō 106 (Dec. 22, 1982).

(19.) Fukuoka District Court, 2002 (wa) 502 (Feb. 27. 2003).

(20.) Osaka District Court, 2004 (u) 68 (Jan. 18, 2006). (p.226)

(21.) Osaka District Court, 1217 Hanrei Times 310 (June 14, 2005); Shizuoka District Court, 915 Hanrei Times 194 (Feb. 19, 1996); Chiba District Court, 781 Hanrei Times 133 (Feb. 21, 1992); Tokyo District Court, 1614 Hanrei Jihō 153 (Feb. 19, 1997).

(22.) Akihiro Nakatani, Ura Ren’ai Ron [The Underground Theory of Love] 2 (2001).

(23.) See Chieko Irie Mulhern, Japanese Harlequin Romances as Transcultural Women’s Fiction, 48(1) J. Asian Stud. 50 (1989).

(24.) Masahiro Yamada and Tōko Shirakawa, Konkatsu Jidai [The Marriage-Hunting Age] 154 (2008).

(25.) Mitsuba, 30sai no Hoken Taiiku (2008).

(26.) Takayuki Yokota-Murakami, Don Juan East/West: On the Problematics of Comparative Literature 41 (1998).

(27.) Susumu Itō, Nihonjin no Ai [Japanese Love] 95 (1996).

(28.) Junko Saeki, Ren’ai no Kigen: Meiji no Ai wo Yomitoku [The Origins of Love: Reading Love in the Meiji Period] 16 (2000).

(29.) Id. at 223–24; Junko Saeki, “Iro” to “Ai” no Hikaku Bunkgakushi [A Comparative Literary History of Love] 10 (1998); Yūko Tanaka, Edo no Koi [Love in the Edo Period] (2002).

(30.) Akira Yanabu, Hon’yakugo Seiritsu Jijō [The Establishment of Standard Language] 93 (1982).

(31.) The orthodox account holds that translators invented ren’ai not only because Japan lacked the word but also because it lacked the concept. The novelist Yukio Mishima noted the foreignness of “Western” love:

i. Koi in Japan began to take shape in the Heian period. From then until now, there is no philosophical background for ren’ai. Like the Greek concept, ren’ai in Japan is an instinctual desire that grows naturally, but that is the only commonality with the Greek. In Greece, unlike Japan, there was a philosophy of love that became clarified into a comprehensive worldview. For the Japanese, ren’ai is simply instinct plus emotion. In Japan, emotions developed significantly, but those emotions have no connection whatsoever to philosophy, and the world that developed was based on emotion. Therefore, in Japan, to speak bluntly, koi between a man and a woman is just a desire to sleep together.

Yukio Mishima, Shin Ren’ai Kōza [Lecture on New Love] (1955) in 29 Ketteiban Mishima Yukio Zenshū [The Complete Yukio Mishima] 15, 22 (2003). Some commentators argue that the lack of a word does not necessarily indicate the lack of a concept and that Japanese had been “loving” for centuries before Western literature appeared in Japan. See, e.g., Atsushi Koyano, Ren’ai no Shōwashi [A History of Love in the Shōwa Era] 8–10 (2005); Atsushi Koyano, Romantikku Rabu to ha Nanika [What Is Romantic Love?], in Tamoki Aotsu et al., eds., Ai to Kunan [Love and Suffering] 65, 68–69 (1999).

(32.) Natural Plants K.K. v. Club Cosmetics K.K., Intellectual Property High Court, 2075 Hanrei Jihō 110 (Apr. 27, 2009); see also Natural Plants K.K. v. Koezuka, Intellectual Property High Court, 2008 (gyōke) 10042 (June 25, 2008) (turning to dictionary to find rabu equivalent to ai, aijō, koi, ren’ai). Other words that courts use to convey emotions that resemble love include, with rough and overlapping English equivalents, miren (lingering affection or attachment), itoshii (dear or beloved), renbo (longing), bojō (longing), koishii (yearning), and horeru (fall in love).

(33.) When a landlord sued neighbors whose dog had barked so incessantly that the tenant broke the lease early, the Tokyo District Court found that the neighbors did not have the proper “love” (ajiō) for the dogs that was necessary to fulfill their duty to care for them by feeding and walking them. Inoue v. Kōno, Tokyo District Court, 1536 Hanrei Jihō 66 (Feb. 1, 1995). When an American Shorthair show cat died due to a botched surgery, the Utsunomiya District Court calculated damages for the owners based not only the cat’s worth as a show cat but specifically noted that (p.227) Myuzu “was not just a show cat; she was loved [aijō] as a member of the family.” Utsunomiya District Court, 1997 (wa) 529 (Mar. 28, 2002). When a man’s elderly mother died in the hospital as the result of negligence, the Tokyo District Court noted not only the plaintiff’s requests to the hospital to take safety measures but also the fact that the son “lived alone with Hana, and his love [aijō] for her was deep.” Kōno v. Tōkyō, Tokyo District Court, 1588 Hanrei Jihō 117 (Apr. 15, 1996).

(34.) Koibito (boyfriend and girlfriend) and ren’ai kankei (love affair) are used to describe romantic relationships. Aijin (lover) carries a more illicit nuance.

(35.) Kushiro District Court, 2006 (wa) 34 (Aug. 21, 2006); Tokyo District Court, 1229 (wa) 275 (Aug. 30, 2002); Kōno v. Otsuyama, Tokyo District Court, 915 Hanrei Times 171 (June 7, 1996).

(37.) Kyoko Seki, David Matsumoto, and T. Todd Imahori, The Conceptualization and Expression of Intimacy in Japan and the United States, 33 J. Cross-Cultural. Psych. 303, 317 (2002); Susan L. Kline, Brian Hortin, and Shuangyue Zhang, Communicating Love: Comparisons Between American and East Asian University Students, 32 Int’l J. Intercultural Relations 32 (2008).

(39.) Amy Borovoy, The Too-Good Wife: Alcohol, Codependency, and the Politics of Nurturance in Postwar Japan 94 (2005).

(41.) Nihon Hōsō Kyōkai, ed., 7 Otto kara Tsumahe, Tsuma kara Otto he: 60sai no Rabu Reta- [From Husband to Wife, from Wife to Husband: Love Letters at 60] 177 (2007).

(42.) Nihon Hōsō Kyōkai, ed., 6 Otto kara Tsumahe, Tsuma kara Otto he: 60sai no Rabu Reta- [From Husband to Wife, from Wife to Husband: Love Letters at 60] 29 (2006).

(43.) Nihon Hōsō Kyōkai, ed., 5 Otto kara Tsumahe, Tsuma kara Otto he: 60sai no Rabu Reta- [From Husband to Wife, from Wife to Husband: Love Letters at 60] 51 (2005).

(45.) Nihon Hōsō Kyōkai, ed., 8 Otto kara Tsumahe, Tsuma kara Otto he: 60sai no Rabu Reta- [From Husband to Wife, from Wife to Husband: Love Letters at 60] 69 (2008).

(46.) Jun’ichi Watanabe, A Lost Paradise 346 (Juliet Winters Carpenter trans. 2000) (original Japanese, Shitsurakuen, published 1997).

(47.) See Junko Saeki, Shinjū no Kindai [Love Suicides and Modernity], in Tamoki Aotsu et al., eds., Ai to Kunan [Love and Suffering] 25, 29–42 (1999).

(48.) Shunsuke Serizawa, Gendai Shinjū ron [Modern Shinjū Theory], in Chizuko Ueno et al., eds., Sekushuaritei to Kazoku [Sexuality and the Family] 195 (1991). Psychiatrist Yoshitomo Takahashi calculates that the murder-suicide rate as a percentage of suicides in Japan is the same in the United States but also notes that the concept of love suicide differs significantly. Yoshitomo Takahashi, Chūkōnen Jisatsu [Middle-Aged Suicide] 80–81 (2003).

(49.) See Mark D. West, Law in Everyday Japan: Sex, Sumo, Suicides, and Statutes 145–89 (2005).

(51.) Osaka District Court, 2006 (wa) 1261 (Aug. 15, 2006).

(52.) U.S. v. Bright, 517 F.2d 584, 585 (2d Cir. 1974).

(53.) Supreme Court, 62(5) Keishū 1559 (Apr. 25, 2008).

(54.) See, e.g., A. Van Gastel, C. Schotte, and M. Maes, The Prediction of Suicidal Intent in Depressed Patients, 96(4) Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica 254 (1997).

(55.) Japanese police are required to categorize and record the causes of each suicide for which a note is left. In 2009, police determined—somehow—the cause of suicide in 24,434 of 32,854 cases, or nearly three-fourths. 393 people killed themselves over “lost love,” and 194 did so over “adultery.” In total, 1,121 people killed themselves over “male-female problems” such as these. 4,117 people committed suicide over “family problems,” the largest category of which, with 1,087 deaths, was “marital discord.” Another 653 people killed themselves over “loneliness.” Combined, these problems are the number two cause of suicide for women (after health problems) and number three for men (after economics and health). Keisatsuchō Seikatsu Anzenkyoku Chiikika, Heisei 21nenchū ni okeru Jisatsu no Gaiyō Shiryō [2009 Outline of Suicide Records] (May 2010), available at http://www.npa.go.jp/safetylife/seianki/220513_H21jisatsunogaiyou.pdf. A study at one Japanese hospital of patients who had attempted or completed suicide found the most common precipitants to be loss of love, divorce, loneliness from living alone, and family conflicts. Takao Hattori, Kazuo Taketani, and Yumi Ogasawara, Suicide and Suicide Attempts in General Hospital Psychiatry: Clinical and Statistical Study, 49 Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences 43 (1995).

(56.) See Amy Borovoy, Japan’s Hidden Youths: Mainstreaming the Emotionally Distressed in Japan, 32 Cult. Med. Psychiatry 552, 555–57 (2008).

(57.) Yoshio Mino, Hideyasu Aoyama, and Jack Froom, Depressive Disorders in Japanese Primary Care Patients, 11(4) Family Practice 363 (1994).

(60.) See, e.g., Kathryn Schulz, Did Antidepressants Depress Japan, N.Y. Times, Aug. 22, 2004, Section 6, 39. The stigma that attaches to the label for schizophrenia (seishin bunretsubyō) is worse; see Tomoko Sugiura et al., Labeling Effect of Seishin-Bunretsu-Byou, the Japanese Translation for Schizophrenia: An Argument for Relabeling, 47(2) Int’l J. Social Psychiatry 43 (2001).

(61.) Nagoya High Court, 61(2) Kasai Geppō 240 (Apr. 8, 2008). Family Court opinion dated Mar. 3, 2007 appended at page 251.

(62.) Sapporo District Court, 1089 Hanrei Times 298 (May 10, 2001). Article 43 of the Penal Code provides that a penalty may be reduced “if the perpetration of the crime has been voluntarily stopped.”

(63.) Tokyo District Court, 2001 (wa) 2983 (Feb. 26, 2002).

(64.) Maebashi District Court, 1(7) Kakeishū 1707 (July 27, 1959).

(65.) Kyoto District Court, 135 Hanrei Jihō 5 (Nov. 8, 1957).

(66.) Sapporo District Court, 2007 (wa) 137 (Dec. 21, 2007). In another 2007 case, the defendant attempted to use the motif of parent-child suicide to cover up a murder. He strangled with a belt his thirty-six-year-old adultery partner, then took her body to the bathroom, tied the belt into a noose, and hung her from the shower head with it. To complete the standard parent-child suicide pattern, he brought their three-month-old son from his crib and placed him in the bathroom near his mother, where he suffocated him with a blanket. The court used forensic evidence to determine that the deaths were murders and sentenced the defendant to life imprisonment. Sendai District Court, 2007 (wa) 59 (Sept. 21, 2007). See also Kushiro District Court, 2006 (wa) 86, Nov. 27, (p.229) 2006 (father kills three-year-old after killing his wife); Tokyo District Court, 668 Hanrei Times 226 (Mar. 10, 1988) (mother kills three-year-old when convinced she herself has mental illness); Tokyo District Court, 683 Hanrei Times 213 (July 28, 1988) (mother kills two children when convinced that she has infected her family with AIDS); Tokyo District Court, 462 Hanrei Times 130 (Nov. 30, 1981) (father kills fifteen-year-old problem child) see also Oita District Court, 2007 (wa) 1 (May 24, 2007) (sixty-eight-year-old husband kills sixty-four-year-old wife at her request and then kills eighty-six-year-old mother-in-law because wife had said that leaving her alive would be “pitiful”). See generally Taimie L. Bryant, Oya-Ko Shinju: Death at the Center of the Heart, 8(1) Pacific Basin L.J. 1 (1990).

(67.) Kushiro District Court, 2006 (wa) 34 (Aug. 21, 2006).

(68.) William Johnston, Geisha, Harlot, Strangler, Star: A Woman, Sex, and Morality in Modern Japan 101 (2005).

(69.) Id.

(70.) Tokyo District Court, 1229 (wa) 275 (Aug. 30, 2002). See also Sapporo District Court, 1005 (wa) 1664 (Nov. 2, 2007), aff’d, Sapporo High Court, 2007 (u) 332 (Mar. 13, 2008) (defendant attempted to murder two women because he felt lonely after his girlfriend of four years left him, he felt worse when he saw his friends “with their boyfriends and girlfriends” having fun, and he “wanted to make his victims, their families, and their lovers feel pain”).

(72.) Japan v. Miura, Tokyo District Court, 849 Hanrei Times 165 (Mar. 31, 1994).

(73.) Japan v. Hara, Tokyo District Court, 2002 (wa) 620 (June 11, 2003). Names are from published press accounts.

(74.) Wakayama District Court, 2(506) Kakeishū 894 (June 13, 1960).

(75.) The percentage is similar to that of Texas. Japan sentences roughly ten persons per year to execution. See David T. Johnson, Where the State Kills in Secret: Capital Punishment in Japan, 8(3) Punishment and Society 251, 267 (2006).

(76.) Japan v. Shonen N, Supreme Court, 37(6) Minshū 609 (July 8, 1983).

(77.) Tokyo High Court, 1422 Hanrei Jihō 142 (Oct. 22, 1991).

(78.) Yūji Kanemasa, Jun’ichi Taniguchi, and Masanori Ishimori, Ren’ai no Ime-ji to Kōi Riyū ni Oyobosu Isei Kankei to Seibetsu no Eikyō [Effects of Opposite Sex Relationships and Sex on Images of Romantic Love and Reasons for Attraction], 1 Tainin Shakai Shinrigaku Kenkyū 147 (2001).

(79.) See generally Chizuko Ueno, Suka-to no Shita no Gekijō [The Stage under the Skirt] 59 (1992) (discussing nineteenth-century taboo of female genitalia touching an object).

(80.) See Shōichi Inoue, Aijin, in Shōichi Inoue, Hikaru Saitō, Tomomi Shibuya, and Junko Mitsuhashi, eds., Seiteki na Kotoba [Sexual Words] 18 (2010) (noting also that until the twentieth century, the word did not have the connotation of infidelity).

(81.) Tokyo District Court, 2004 (wa) 17193 (Sept. 30, 2005).

(82.) Fukuoka District Court, 1581 Hanrei Jihō 143 (July 12, 1996).

(83.) Supreme Court, 4(9) Keishū 1806 (Sept. 27, 1950).

(84.) Fukuoka High Court, 1633 Hanrei Jihō 147 (Dec. 4, 1997).

(85.) Japan v. Ōyama, Hiroshima High Court, 2005 (u) 115 (Oct. 16, 2007). See also Kobe District Court, 2009 (wa) 106 (June 15, 2009) (defendant claims that he murdered his girlfriend, whom he loved [ai], eleven days before she was to give birth to his child, because he wanted to make her his own and not because he feared that his wife and boss would learn of her existence); cf. Saitama District Court, 2008 (wa) 1139 (June 8, 2009) (court finds that accomplice has no reason to frame his wife because he proclaimed his love for her in open court).

(86.) See also Tokyo District Court, 1602 Hanrei Times 145 (Feb. 12, 1997) (mother kills daughter whom she “loved above all others”). (p.230)

(87.) Japan v. Yamauchi, Nagoya High Court, 144 Hanrei Times 175 (Dec. 22, 1962).

(88.) Kochi District Court, 742 Hanrei Times 224 (Sept. 17, 1990).

(89.) See Osaka District Court, 879 Hanrei Jihō 158 (Nov. 30, 1977) (one-year sentence for husband who killed sick wife whom he “loved deeply”); Kagoshima District Court, 333 Hanrei Times 352 (Oct. 1, 1975) (no liability for husband who killed sick wife whom he “loved”); Takamatsu High Court, 2001 (u) 231 (Jan. 17, 2002) (seven-year sentence for man who killed adulterous wife whom he “loved”). The same pattern occurs in cases of parental love; see Osaka District Court, 2006 (wa) 1078 (May 23, 2006) (fifteen-year sentence for man who killed twenty-one-year-old son who he “in fact, loved”).

(90.) Suto-ka- Kōi no Kisei nado ni Kansuru Hōritsu [Antistalking Law], Law No. 81 of 2000.

(92.) Based on a search at the Japanese government’s comprehensive e-gov site, http://law.egov.go.jp/cgi-bin/idxsearch.cgi. The word aijō (love) appears in one statute, Shintai Shōgaisha Hojokenhō [Law Concerning Service Dogs for Physically Disabled Persons], Law no. 49 of 2002, and in one ministry provision, Shōnen Kanbetsusho Shogū Kisoku [Rules Pertaining to Treatment of Juvenile Detention Facilities], Ministry of Justice Order no. 58 of 1949. The word ai (love) appears in forty-five statutes, including thirteen in which the character appears merely as part of the names of prefectures (Aichi or Ehime).

(93.) Ark. Code Ann. § 9–15-103(4)(A) (2005), Colo. Rev. Stat. § 13–14-101(2) (2006), Fla. Stat. ch. 784.046 (2005), Iowa Code § 236.2(e) (2006), Minn. Stat. § 518B.2 (2005), N.H. Code Admin. R. Ann. 173-B:1 (2004); see Commission on Domestic Violence Report, American Bar Association Recommendation 110, Adopted Aug. 7–8, 2006, available at www.abanet.org/leadership/2006/annual/dailyjournal/hundredten.doc.

(94.) Fuller v. State, 259 S.W.3d 486 (Ct. App. Ark. 2007).

(95.) Andrews v. Rutherford, 832 A.2d 379 (Sup. Ct. N.J. 2003). California defines a “dating relationship” as “frequent, intimate associations primarily characterized by the expectation of affection or sexual involvement independent of financial considerations.” Cal. Fam. Code § 6210 (2008). Before the statutory definition was codified, California courts defined a dating relationship as “a serious courtship. It is a social relationship between two individuals who have or have had a reciprocally amorous and increasingly exclusive interest in one another, and shared expectation of the growth of that mutual interest, that has endured for such a length of time and stimulated such frequent interactions that the relationship cannot be deemed to have been casual.” Oriola v. Thaler, 84 Cal. App. 4th 397, 412 (Ct. App. Cal. 2000). See People v. Rucker, 126 Cal. App. 4th 1107 (Ct. App. Cal. 2005); People v. Atchison, 2007 Cal. App. Unpub. LEXIS 2645 (Ct. App. Cal. 2007).

(96.) Haigūsha Kara no Bōryoku Oyobi Higaisha no Hogo ni Kansuru Hōritsu [Law for the Prevention of Spousal Violence and the Protection of Victims], Law no. 31 of 2001. “Spouse” includes common-law spouses. Art. 1.

(98.) Kumiko Okada, Suto-ka- Kōi Nado Kiseihō [The Antistalking Law], Hōgaku Semina-Oct. 2000, 61, 62.

(100.) The Supreme Court has held that the law is not overbroad and does not violate a person’s right to have feelings of love, a right implied by articles 13 (right to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness) and 21 (freedom of expression) of the constitution. Japan v. Shigeno, Supreme Court, 1141 Hanrei Times 132 (Dec. 11, 2003).

(101.) Tokyo High Court, 1860 Hanrei Jihō 154 (Mar. 5, 2003).

(102.) Tokyo High Court, 1172 Hanrei Times 308 (Oct. 20, 2004).

(103.) Kobe District Court, 1997 (wa) 125 (July 3, 2007).

(104.) As a convicted stalker, he received a suspended sentence and subsequently became the sixth judge in Japanese history to be impeached (and the first since 2001, when a Tokyo High Court judge was impeached after violating child prostitution laws). See, e.g., Hanji Shimoyama, Sotsui Jijitsu Mitomeru, Suto-ka- de Dangai Hatsukōhan [First Public Hearing in Stalker Impeachment Trial of Judge Shimoyama], Nihon Keizai Shinbun, Dec. 3, 2008, available at http://www.nikkei.co.jp/news/main/20081203AT1G0301K03122008.html (accessed Dec. 8, 2008).

(105.) Corinthians 13:4–8.