All over the news this week has been the murder of the chief priest at a Tokyo shrine named Tomioka Hachiman-gu. The female head priest was apparently cut down by her sword-wielding brother, who afterwards killed his accomplice lover and then himself. Established in 1627, the shrine was once the largest Hachiman shrine in Tokyo and its summer festival one of the three great festivals. For such a major shrine to be the setting for a crime of violence of this kind is shocking indeed.
A violent attack with Japanese swords and survival knives at Tokyo’s famed Tomioka Hachimangu shrine has left three dead — including the chief priestess and her brother — in an apparent family feud that turned deadly.
Head priestess Nagako Tomioka, 58, and the two suspected attackers, her brother Shigenaga, 56, and a woman in her 30s, died Thursday evening, Metropolitan Police Department sources said.
After attacking his sister, Shigenaga Tomioka apparently killed the female suspect and then himself, police sources added. Nagako Tomioka’s driver, 33, was also seriously injured in the attack.
Authorities suspect a row between the brother and sister over the shine’s chief priest position had prompted the apparent murder-suicide. After receiving emergency reports of a rampage with a blade, police rushed to the site and found four bleeding people near the shrine in the Tomioka district of Tokyo’s Koto Ward. The four were sent to a hospital, where the three were confirmed dead.
The attack began around 8:25 p.m., when Shigenaga Tomioka attacked his sister with a Japanese sword as she exited her car on the shrine grounds. The female suspect, meanwhile, chased down Tomioka’s driver, who had tried to escape on foot, and attacked him about 100 meters away. The driver suffered injuries to his right arm and chest, though they were not life-threatening.
The two attackers then moved to the shrine premises, where Shigenaga Tomioka stabbed the woman in the chest and stomach and then stabbed himself in the left side of the chest multiple times. Police said the attacks were captured by security cameras and that two survival knives and two Japanese swords were left at the scene.
Shigenaga Tomioka was arrested some 10 years ago for blackmailing his sister. After he left the post of chief priest in 2001, he sent a threatening postcard to his sister in January 2006 in which he wrote, among other things, that he would send her to hell. At the time, his sister had held a post known as negi, the second-highest rank at a Shinto shrine after the chief priest.
The shrine, established in 1627, is known for its annual Fukagawa Hachiman festival, one of Tokyo’s three major festivals from the Edo period. The shrine, located roughly 100 meters east of Monzen-Nakacho Station, also has close links with the sumo world.
Tomioka Hachimangu found itself in hot water with the Jinja Honcho (Association of Shinto Shrines) in 2010 over the appointment of the shrine’s chief priest. The shrine left the association on Sept. 28 this year and Nagako Tomioka became the chief priest shortly after.