Using Father's Sword, 17-year-old Otoya Yamaguchi, Plunges Blade Into Socialist Leader Inejirō Asanuma On Live Television

Published on December 28, 2021
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Death Already Upon Him

Political assassin Otoya Yamaguchi (left), Socialist leader and victim, Inejiro Asanuma (right).

Political assassin Otoya Yamaguchi (left), Socialist leader and victim, Inejiro Asanuma (right).


Otoya Yamaguchi, an ultra right-wing 17-year-old, spent 3 days deciding how he should send a message to the nation of Japan.

The teenager knew that he would have to carry out his mission alone. There was no one he could entrust with his plan.

Around 3:03pm, somebody in the crowd shouted, "Shut up, Communist! Down with Peking", and you can see in the video that Asanuma lifts his left palm, attempting to silence the attendee.

To the left of Asanuma, a young assassin awaits his opportunity to attack.

"Asanuma turned casually, he gasped in horror, for there, running at him with full tilt, was Otoya Yamaguchi, holding his father's samurai sword before him."

Otoya Yamaguchi assassinates Inejiro Asanuma with katana


Pulitzer Prize-Winning Photograph

Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph by Yasushi Nagao, Mainichi Shimbun. The photo was taken directly after Yamaguchi stabbed Asanuma and is here seen attempting a second stab, although he was restrained before that could happen. Photo source: Wikipedia

Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph by Yasushi Nagao, Mainichi Shimbun. The photo was taken directly after Yamaguchi stabbed Asanuma and is here seen attempting a second stab, although he was restrained before that could happen. Photo source: Wikipedia


“Asanuma staggered two or three steps, held his chest, mumbled some words and collapsed on the blood-splattered stage.”

Taken at the perfect moment, Yasushi Nagao pointed his camera at the scene just as Otoya prepares to thrust his blade into Asanuma for a second time.

The assassin is wearing his school's uniform, which is why many of the papers refer to him as a "student" when first reporting the murder.

Otoya was unsuccessful in his second attempt to stab the socialist leader and was quickly pulled away.

Directly under the bent knees of Inejirō Asanuma, you can see his name displayed on a banner.

Nagao, a photographer for the newspaper Mainichi Shimbun, received the Pulitzer Prize for his historic photo in 1961.

Forged From History

Otoya used his father's Wakizashi to murder the socialist leader. This weapon is easily concealed and has been banned for public use since 1876.

Otoya used his father's Wakizashi to murder the socialist leader. This weapon is easily concealed and has been banned for public use since 1876.


At first, many sources reported Otoya used a "samurai" sword to kill his target, and although this may technically be true, the exact blade was a 'Wakizashi' that he had stolen from his father.

Banned since 1876, the Wakizashi blade was easily concealed and only political officers could carry one.

In a similar fashion as an infantryman's side pistol, the Wakizashi is a secondary weapon and usually only used as a last resort.

With over 1,000 in attendance and millions watching on rebroadcasted television, Otoya unsheathes his father's Wakizashi blade and plunges it 11 inches and through Asunuma's vital organs.

As the socialist leader backed into the podium, Otoya repositions himself for a second thrust, but was unsuccessful. This second attempt was "unnecessary" as enough damage had been done with the first fatal blow.

Otoya Commits 'Owabi’ (act of suicide)

From an American newspaper covering the assassination. Otoya commited suicide in his jail cell shortly after he murdered Asanuma.

From an American newspaper covering the assassination. Otoya committed suicide in his jail cell shortly after he murdered Asanuma.


Police found the body of Otoya Yamaguchi "still warm" and hanging from a light fixture from his prison cell.

Using ripped up bed sheets, the 17-year-old killer stood on his cell's toilet bowl and hung himself.

His body was found hanging around 8:30pm, but must have been worth trying to resuscitate since emergency technicians spend "3 hours" performing artificial respiration to no avail.

Scribbled using toothpaste on his cell wall was, "shichi sho koku ten no keika banzai", which means to "serve one's country for seven lives."

The message was Otoya's final act of patriotism and a salute to Emperor Hirohito.

From an article in Time Magazine, "In a bleak cell at a Tokyo juvenile detention home one night last week, a mop-haired teenager mixed a palmful of tooth powder with a few drops of water and scrawled a message on the wall: "Seven lives for my country. Ten thousand years for His Imperial Majesty, the Emperor!''

The right-wing nationalist group presented with a burial coat, kimono, and belt his father and mother.

A newspaper describing how Otoya must have felt as he contemplated his mission.

A newspaper describing how Otoya must have felt as he contemplated his mission.


In the 1960s, Japan was facing a turbulent turning point. With the advent and use of nuclear warfare that devastated the island, the Japanese people were under the direct threat of Chinese communism.

One newspaper described the chaotic society as "a fragile lotus blossom", which at any point could easily be destroyed.

Even though Otoya was only 17, he knew he needed to defend his motherland against the oppressive forces and evils that haunted the land.

While in his father's home, who was a high-ranking military official, Otoya took the Wakizashi blade that he would use to assassinate Asanuma 3 days later.

Although Otoya had no accomplice, his beliefs lay with a 100-member extreme right-wing group called the "Great Japan Patriotic Society."

Otoya was happy with how things ended. A reporter from The Guardian stated that "eyewitnesses said that Yamaguchi was smiling as he was taken into custody."

Young assassin takes own life in Japan prison (The News and Observer 3, Nov. 1960)

Japan: Assassin's apologies (Time Magazine 14, Nov. 1960)

Samurai sword in hands of youth ended life of Japanese Socialist (The Paducah Sun 23, April 1963)

Japanese leftist leader slain at political rally (The Odessa American 12, Oct. 1960)

13 comments on “Using Father's Sword, 17-year-old Otoya Yamaguchi, Plunges Blade Into Socialist Leader Inejirō Asanuma On Live Television”

  1. Oh my Gawd I think I have a new hero. I want that picture on a t-shirt to wear every weekday for the rest of my life, and another t-shirt with the same picture but rendered in manga art style to wear every weekend. The look on his face has the appearance of a boy becoming a man while simultaneously attaining total enlightenment while also his body and soul are becoming 100% HONOR plus earning a black belt. And that animated gif deserves its own Pulitzer prize.

    Yeah wow great find John, I'm deeply deeply ashamed I didn't know about this young master of the blade ..and now master of my heart.

  2. That photo is awesome. otoya is very brave and he saved his country that day. I've never heard of this case. Thanks Jon for covering it! Very interesting.

  3. Hey you guys!

    1. That photo is epic! Great story.
    2. I FINALLY as of… 10:37 pm, January 1, 2022… finished listening to every episode of TMTM! Whew!
    3. I want to request you do the McKay Everett story, it happened here in my hometown and was so sad. They have written some books on the killer.
    4. You guys are, as always, amazing!

    -Leigh-

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