On July 5, 1949, the president of the newly established Japanese National Railways disappeared on his way to work. His body was found the following morning, apparently dismembered from being hit by a train. Speculation about whether it was murder or suicide ran rife in the media, but the police ultimately shut down the investigation later that year without issuing an official report. This book takes another look at the mystery, known in Japan as the Shimoyama Incident, which has remained unsolved since those early-postwar days when the country was still under U.S. occupation.
This was a time when Japan remained in considerable disorder as the country struggled to get back on its feet, and austerity measures were compelling companies to lay off unprecedented numbers of workers. No exception, the Japanese National Railways was under pressure to cut its workforce by some 100,000 members. It was a period of change and instability among Japan’s neighbors as well, with the Communist Party having just gained power in China, and the Korean Peninsula on the verge of war with the pro-communist north facing off against the pro-American south across the 38th parallel. Occurring at a time when a whole array of forces surrounding the JNR president?the JNR union, GHQ (Occupation headquarters), the CIA, and others?created a tangle of conflicting motives, the incident left behind numerous unanswered questions. In the decades since, the mysteries have been probed time and again by journalists and authors of every stripe, including the great mystery writer Seichō Matsumoto?in fiction and nonfiction as well as film.
Now, more than half a century after the incident, author Tetsutaka Shibata examines the story from a unique new angle, asking “Was my grandfather the perpetrator?” Shibata’s grandfather worked for a company linked to the case, and he analyzes statements made by various family members to arrive at his conclusions. One cannot help but be amazed that new evidence that bears on the case continues to emerge at a time when fewer and fewer witnesses remain alive.