A police order that forbade Susumu Terauchi from approaching his ex-girlfriend Miki Kawano did not stop the suspect from fatally stabbing the woman on a Fukuoka street earlier this week, in another case of a stalking victim falling prey to a predator despite having sought the protection of authorities.
Terauchi, 31, who was working at a bar, was arrested on suspicion of stabbing Kawano, 38, around a dozen times Monday evening near JR Hakata Station, a major rail hub in the southwestern Japan city.
The attack occurred despite Terauchi being ordered to not approach the woman in November after she ended their relationship. Kawano had gone to the police multiple times since October, claiming she had been accosted and followed by her ex-partner.
Police issued a warning to Terauchi in November and in December banned him from approaching Kawano based on the stalker regulation law.
Terauchi, who has confessed to the killing, is suspected of carrying the kitchen knife used in the attack when he was apprehended by police. He fled the scene with the weapon in his bag on Monday and police took him into custody two days later.
Security footage captured near the crime scene showed Kawano leaving her nearby office and then quarreling with Terauchi on the road where the alleged stabbing occurred.
Instances of stalking are on the increase nationwide in Japan. According to the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department, cases in which the regulation law prohibiting stalking is invoked have been rising.
In recent years, nationwide police consultations involving stalking have hovered around 20,000. In 2021, 1,671 prohibition orders against stalkers were issued -- a record high.
In 2016, there were 173 cases, but since the revision of the stalking control law came into effect in 2017, it has become possible to issue prohibition orders without first giving a warning, and the number has sharply increased.
In 2021, 1,581 cases involving criminal offenses and special laws related to stalking were revealed, an increase of 63 from the previous year. In the case of a woman who was murdered in Kitakyushu in November 2021, her ex-boyfriend who was arrested for the crime had also been issued an order due to his harassing behavior.
The initial regulation law came into force in 2000 after the murder of a female university student in Okegawa, Saitama Prefecture.
The law has been amended several times, including expanding the scope of acts covered by it and increasing penalties, but the crimes continue. The most recent revision, which came into effect in 2021, prohibits the use of GPS devices and smartphone apps to track victims' locations.
Terauchi was arrested on Wednesday morning, two days after the fatal stabbing, on what would have been Kawano's 39th birthday. Many members of the public visited the site of the attack to leave messages, flowers and drinks as offerings to the dead woman.
In front of Kyushu's largest station, people clasped their hands in prayer as they gathered despite the chilly evening conditions.
"You must have been so frightened. You did your best," one message read.
A woman from Fukuoka in her 40s who takes the same route to work that Kawano did, tried walking along a different road after the incident but reluctantly returned to her normal route once she heard the suspect was in police custody.
She is also a victim of a stalker, prompting her to move to her current residence. "I don't think of it as something that happened to someone else. (Kawano) was working hard to support a small child, so why did she have to be killed? My chest hurts when I think about this dreadful act."