A Letter to Kyodo News Chiba Bureau Chief from a Mother of a High School Junior Who Committed Suicide After Bullying (1)
2023.05.28 17:00 Nanami Nakagawa
Around the end of November 2022, Saori Fukuura, who lived in Nagasaki City, had been unable to sleep well.
What troubles Saori was what happened to Kyodo News reporter, Yoichi Ishikawa.
Ishikawa was chasing the suicide case of Saori’s son, Hayato. Hayato was 16 when he committed suicide following bullying at school on April 20, 2017. He was a junior in Kaisei High School, a private school run by the Catholic educational institution Kaisei Gakuen in Nagasaki. Ishikawa revealed that Kaisei Gakuen tried to cover up the bullying and that Nagasaki Prefecture was complicit in it.
Bungeishunju, a notable publisher, took note of Ishikawa’s series of reports in Kyodo News. In November 2022, Bungeishunju published a book written by Ishikawa, “Bullying Sanctuary: A Complete Record of Parents Who Challenged the Darkness of Catholic School.” Ishikawa added what Kyodo News could not cover, and wrote it over 382 pages.
However, just as Saori was delighted with the publication of his book, something unexpected happened. She was contacted by Ishikawa and learned that Kyodo News was questioning the contents of the book.
The reason seemed to be that the Nagasaki Shimbun was protesting to Kyodo News about defamation in regards to the description in Chapter 11, “Adults Who Want to Escape Responsibilities.”
Kaisei Gakuen in Nagasaki (Photo by Nanami Nakagawa on April 20, 2023)
The cause of the Nagasaki Shimbun’s rage
Why is the Nagasaki Shimbun irritated?
After Hayato committed suicide, Kaisei High School proposed to his mother Saori and father Daisuke that they explain to the others that Hayato had “died suddenly.” This was completely unacceptable to the bereaved family. Moreover, Nagasaki Prefecture’s General Affairs Department Academic Promotion Section approved the proposal from Kaisei Gakuen. As a reporter of Kyodo News, Isikawa reported on November 17, 2020, that “Kaisei High School camouflaged suicide as ‘sudden death,’ and Nagasaki Prefecture confirmed it. Suspicion of violating national guidelines.” Ishikawa’s scoop appeared on the top page of Yahoo! News and the top page of the social section of the Tokyo Shimbun and received a great response.
The day after Ishikawa’s report, the Prefectural General Affairs Department held a press conference. Regarding the confirmation of Kaisei Gakuen’s “sudden death” proposal, they explained that they did not actively confirm it, and that the remarks of the person in charge were inappropriate and caused misunderstanding.
The media companies that attended the press conference reported critically on the prefecture’s explanation, but the Nagasaki Shimbun was different. It did not mention the claim of the bereaved family, and reported only on the prefectural viewpoint.
In Chapter 11 of the book, “Adults Who Want to Escape Responsibilities,” Ishikawa took up the reporting attitude of the Nagasaki Shimbun at this time. For example, Koichi Doshita (anonymous in the book), a reporter in charge of prefectural affairs for the Nagasaki Shimbun, told Ishikawa who pursued the prefectural side at a press conference;
“As a prefectural press club, we can’t overlook your behavior if you go too far.”
In Chapter 11, Ishikawa also mentioned that Nagasaki Prefecture pays fees for about 900 advertisements to the Nagasaki Shimbun every year.
“Because they are dealing with a large amount of money, if they don’t pursue scandals with a stern attitude, their readers may think, ‘They’re reading the sponsor’s face,'” the book writes.
Saori couldn’t understand why the Nagasaki Shimbun was irritated. Everything written in the book is true. The efforts of Kyodo News “seemed to be doing nothing but destroying Reporter Ishikawa.” She wanted to protest as soon as possible to Kyodo News.
However, Ishikawa’s situation must not become worse due to her actions. After thinking about what she could possibly do, Saori came up with an idea.
She decided to write a letter to express her gratitude for Ishikawa’s coverage and send it to Kyodo News. Ishikawa had transferred from the Nagasaki bureau office to the Chiba bureau office in June 2021. She decided to write a letter to Ichiro Masamura, the chief of the Chiba bureau.
“I didn’t have time to cry over the loss of my child.”
A copy of a letter written by Saori Fukuura to Kyodo News’ Chiba bureau chief (provided by the bereaved family)
On December 3, 2022, at midnight, Saori started to write a letter in her living room.
Saori wasn’t feeling well at the time, having a fever of over 38 degrees. Still, she wrote because she wanted to help Ishikawa as soon as possible.
Chief of the Kyodo News Chiba Bureau,
Please forgive me for sending you this letter so suddenly. We are Fukuura family from Nagasaki Prefecture, and we were interviewed by Reporter Ishikawa from your company.
Reporter Ishikawa recently published a book about us, and I am writing to express my gratitude to everyone at your company.
Our child took his life because of bullying.
On April 20, 2017, Saori’s son Hayato, who was a junior at Kaisei High School, a Catholic school in Nagasaki, passed away. He committed suicide by hanging himself. He was found the next morning under a secluded tree in a park about a 15-minute walk from his home.
Saori and Daisuke tried to find out why Hayato had to commit suicide. They finally found a notebook in which Hayato described his agony in words. The names of the perpetrator and the content of the bullying were written in detail.
The bullying began in his third year at Kaisei Junior High, which is the middle school of Kaisei Gakuen, a combined junior and senior high school.
Hayato was bullied by his classmates on a daily basis because of the sounds of swallowing saliva and growling stomachs. Hayato started to eat snacks before lunch so that he wouldn’t make a sound when he was hungry. He would bring rice balls and snacks, and eat them alone in a small room away from the classroom. Hayato felt somewhat relieved when his stomach stopped growing, but the bullying didn’t stop. When Hayato went outside for a snack, 10 to 15 students followed him, and once, a few students attempted to break open the door of the room he was snacking in. Several students also testified in the third-party investigation. Hayato was starting to show symptoms, such as salivation in his mouth because he was afraid of making the noise, and his limbs and body shaking because he was afraid of being bullied.
In November 2018, as a result of an investigation by a third-party committee consisting of lawyers and teachers from other schools, it was determined that Hayato committed suicide because of bullying. “There is no doubt that the bullying that took place from the third year of junior high school until after entering high school was the main factor in Fukuura’s suicide.”
However, Kaisei Gakuen did not accept the conclusion of the third-party committee. It made Saori and Daisuke’s misery much worse.
As a reporter, Ishikawa began to investigate the truth behind Hayato’s death.
I’ve known Reporter Ishikawa since 2019 through the case of my son. Because of his steadfast determination that we should inform the public about our son’s case, Reporter Ishikawa has continued to passionately cover our tales even after being transferred to the Chiba Bureau. Of course, the cooperation of everyone in your company made that possible. I sincerely appreciate it.
Saori writes from her heart. Saori was grateful to Ishikawa and Kyodo News for creating the opportunity for her son’s case to be widely reported. The letter continues as follows.
The difficulties we faced as a grieving family were overwhelming.
It was a constant battle to learn about and handle all of the challenges on our own, starting with the unreasonable attitude of the school, the attitude of the prefectural officials to protect the school, and the absence of an organization to guide private schools.
I didn’t have time to cry over the loss of my child.
“Reporter Ishikawa was the only one”
However, media interest gradually faded. As time passed, the media only showed up to cover Hayato’s death anniversary or significant events.
But sadly, as time passed, the number of reports of my son’s case declined, unless we took some action.
Reporter Ishikawa of your company was the only one who thought about this issue for a long time.
As parents who could not save our son, we have continued to speak up to the school and to the prefecture to prevent a recurrence, in the belief that we should not let any child suffer like our son.
It is the Kyodo News Agency that reports our intentions honestly and accurately at any time. I am grateful that there is a news organization that sincerely listens to marginal voices like ours.
I am also very grateful to Reporter Ishikawa for writing about the truth in the book.
Thank you very much.
The letter was four pages long. After closing with Saori and Daisuke’s joint signatures, Saori added a postscript.
I have included the relevant article for your reference. <Omitted>
It is clear that the only newspaper defending the prefecture’s viewpoint was the Nagasaki Shimbun. It is quite disappointing.
Please also read the article that was published the other day, written by the reporter who defends the prefecture viewpoint.
At the end of the letter, she wrote, “December 10, 2022.” But in reality, it was December 3rd. With a high fever and faint consciousness, Saori, who wrote down her thoughts without drafting, had misread the calendar for a week.
The next morning, Saori sent a letter to the Chiba bureau office with Nagasaki’s famous Bunmeido castella, sponge cake.
Saori’s concerns, however, did not get to Kyodo News. Instead, it turns into a situation in which her sentiments are disrespected.
Hayato Fukuura’s 6th birthday (provided by bereaved family)
Starting the series “The Price to Self-Protection, Suicide of High School Junior and the Adults”
In April 2017, Hayato Fukuura, a junior high school student at Kaisei Gakuen, a private Catholic school in Nagasaki, committed suicide.
The bereaved family’s wish is that “I hope that what happened to Hayato will never be repeated.”
However, suicides followed by bullying have been repeated all over Japan until now. If nothing changes, the same thing will happen. This is because adults who should play a role in preventing the recurrence of suicides followed by bullying are acting defensively and upholding the very structure of suicides followed by bullying.
The price of self-protection is too high.
In this series, the first part, “Kyodo News”, questions self-preservation in the field of journalism.
As a measure against slander, only the last name of the victim, Hayato, and his bereaved family are pseudonyms.
To be continued.
(Originally published in Japanese on May 18, 2023. Translation by Mana Shibata.)Adults in the Student Suicide Case: All articles