Controversial Nagasaki Mayor Shot, Wounded

From Associated Press

Nagasaki Mayor Hitoshi Motoshima, who has received death threats since he said the late Emperor Hirohito bore some responsibility for World War II, was shot today outside city hall, a Nagasaki official said.

Nagasaki prefectural (state) police spokesman Hiroharu Naoe said a single gunman shot Motoshima, hitting the mayor in the left side of his chest, then fled in a white sedan. Police were searching for him, Naoe said.

City spokesman Megumi Nobeta said that the 67-year-old mayor was taken to Nagasaki Public Hospital immediately after being shot as he was about to get into a car.


The Japan Broadcasting Corp. said the mayor was conscious after being shot, and it quoted ambulance and fire department officials as saying the bullet had not hit vital organs.

The mayor was rushed into surgery within 45 minutes after he was shot, it said, and doctors had stopped the bleeding and had not found any bullets, indicating the bullet had passed through his body.

Motoshima has been receiving threats from ultra-nationalists and others since December, 1988, when he said at a city assembly session that he believed Hirohito, then on his deathbed, “shares responsibility for the war, as well as all of us who lived in that period.”

Motoshima also said Hirohito could have ended World War II sooner and perhaps spared Nagasaki from the atomic bomb.

Nagasaki was hit by an atomic bomb on Aug. 9, 1945, three days after Hiroshima became the first city to be hit by a nuclear weapon.

The mayor’s comments enraged fringe groups that reject any criticism of the imperial family, and Motoshima continued to receive threats even after Hirohito’s death one year ago.


In December, a right-wing doctor, 62-year-old Shigeru Kajiyama, was sentenced to two years in prison for threatening to kill the mayor.

Testimony at his trial said he had sent three anonymous letters containing live bullets to the mayor.

In January, 1989, a rightist was arrested after breaking into city hall with a knife intending to force Motoshima into retracting his statement.

Early last year, rightists mobilized about 100 sound trucks to circle city hall and blare slogans denouncing the mayor. Police at one time had about 1,200 officers deployed to prevent trouble.

Though the rightists made a great deal of noise, supporters of the mayor’s position sent him a petition with some 286,000 signatures in April calling for more freedom to express opinions, even on taboo subjects like the late emperor’s war responsibility.