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Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Kidnapping - Sexual assault
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: November 17, 2004
Date of arrest: December 30, 2004
Date of birth: November 30, 1968
Victim profile: Kaede Ariyama, 7
Method of murder: Drowning
Location: Nara, Nara Prefecture, Kansai region, Japan
Status: Executed by hanging at Osaka Detention Center on February 21, 2013

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Kaoru Kobayashi (小林 薫, Kobayashi Kaoru, November 30, 1968 – February 21, 2013) was a local newspaper delivery man who kidnapped, sexually assaulted and murdered Kaede Ariyama (有山 楓, Ariyama Kaede), a seven-year-old first-grade student from the Japanese city of Nara.

Kobayashi already had a record as a sexual offender at that time. Kobayashi was tried and convicted of his crimes. He was executed by hanging at Osaka Detention Center on February 21, 2013.

Early life

Kobayashi was born in 1968, in Sumiyoshi-ku, Osaka. Because his family was poor, he'd worked as a paperboy since his childhood. His mother died in 1978. In 1989, he was convicted of sexually assaulting eight children. He was sentenced to a suspended sentence of 2 years imprisonment. In October 1991, he attempted to kill a five year old girl and was sentenced to 3 years in prison. He was paroled on November 9, 1995 and officially released on July 23, 1996.

Kobayashi had worked at a newsstand for Asahi Shinbun in the Tomio area, between March and July 2000, so he knew his way around the Ikoma-Tomio area very well. At the time of the murder, he was employed as a newspaper deliveryman for Mainichi Shimbun in the Ikoma district of Nara Prefecture.

Kidnapping and murder

On November 17, 2004, in the Tomio section of Nara, Kobayashi kidnapped Kaede Ariyama, a student at Tomio North Elementary School, while she traveled from her school to her home. The kidnapping occurred in close proximity to Nara Prefecture's west-side police station. Using the girl's cellular phone, he sent Kaede's photograph to her mother with the message: "I've got your daughter".

Kobayashi murdered Kaede and dumped her body in the town of Heguri in the Ikoma District of Nara Prefecture. Her body was found that night. The autopsy revealed the cause of death to be drowning. The water collected in Kaede's lungs was not dirty, so it was assumed that Kobayashi had drowned her in a sink or bathtub. Also, it appeared that he had undressed Kaede before murdering her, and then re-dressed her after she was murdered.

There were abrasions on Kaede's hands and feet, and several of her teeth were missing. It was assumed that the abrasions had been made post-mortem by the suspect. The removal of the teeth was also performed post-mortem.

On December 14, 2004, Kobayashi sent an email from Kaede's cellular phone to her mother's cellular phone, saying "I'll take her baby sister next." An image of Kaede was included in the e-mail.

He had shown off a photograph of Kaede to a waitress and customers in a local bar, claiming to have gotten the photograph from a website.


On December 30, 2004, Kobayashi, who lived in the town of Kawai in Kitakatsuragi District in Nara Prefecture, was arrested for kidnapping. The suburbs of Kitakatsuragi along with Tomio and Ikoma are all in the northwest area of Nara Prefecture.

Kobayashi had sent the victim's photograph from her cellular phone to his own. His use of the victim's phone helped speed his arrest because the local cell phone towers logged the messages sent from the phone.

He was arrested after he had finished his morning paper route, distributing the news that the suspect would be arrested soon.

The police confiscated from his room a video and a magazine, containing child pornography. In addition, Kaede's cellular phone and randosel were discovered. In his room, there was a considerable amount of underwear, which had been stolen by him between June and December 2004.

A witness saw Kaede walking to Kobayashi's car, which suggested that they knew each other. However, Kobayashi said "I would have kidnapped anybody."

On January 19, 2005, Kobayashi was prosecuted for kidnapping. Because he had previous sexual offenses involving girls, public attention turned to passing a law in Japan similar to Megan's Law in the United States.


Mainichi Shimbun

In the wake of the arrest, it came out that the manager of the newspaper delivery agency in Higashisumiyoshi Ward had made a report to the police that a newspaper subscription fee of 230,000 yen had been stolen. Afterwards, the manager discovered that the thief was Kobayashi, now working in Kawai.

On November 17, 2004, the day of the kidnapping, a judge had issued an arrest warrant for Kobayashi for the embezzlement reported by the manager. However, the manager did not inform the police of this, because he was promised that the suspect would repay him for the stolen money with monthly payments. Therefore, the police were not able to arrest Kobayashi, and he was free to commit his attack.

As a result of this, Mainichi Shimbun announced on January 19, 2005, that it would terminate its contracts with two delivery agents in Kawai and Higashisumiyoshi Ward in Osaka on January 31.

Effect on Otaku

In Japan there has been some negativity towards otaku and otaku culture. Tsutomu Miyazaki became known as "The Otaku Murderer" in 1989. His bizarre murders fueled a moral panic against otaku.

Japanese journalist Akihiro Otani suspected that Kobayashi's crime was committed by a member of the figurine collector sub-culture, even before his arrest. Although Kobayashi was not an otaku, and did not even own any figurines, the degree of social hostility against otaku seemed to increase for a while, as suggested by increased targeting of otaku by law enforcement as possible suspects for sex crimes, and by calls from persons in local governments for stricter laws controlling the depiction of eroticism in materials which cater to some otaku (e.g. erotic manga and erotic videogames). Nobuto Hosaka criticised a lot of the hype.

Trial and verdict

His trial began on April 18, 2005. Kobayashi said:

I want to be sentenced to death as quickly as possible, and leave a legacy among the public as the next Tsutomu Miyazaki or Mamoru Takuma.

However, both Miyazaki and Takuma killed many children and were regarded as insane murderers.

Miyazaki claimed that "I won't allow him to call himself 'the second Tsutomu Miyazaki' when he hasn't even undergone a psychiatric examination."

Kobayashi's psychiatrist diagnosed him as suffering from antisocial personality disorder and pedophilia, but sane enough to be responsible for his actions. In fact, he might have been gnawed by a sense of guilt.

Kaede's identity had been withheld by the Japanese media when the media learned of his sex crime, but the bereaved released her name and photograph in September 2006.

On September 26, 2006, Kobayashi was sentenced to death by hanging by the Nara district court. The defense made an appeal on the same day, but retracted it on October 10, 2006.

His new lawyer claimed in June 2007 that the withdrawal was invalid, which was declined by the Nara district court on April 21, 2008. On May 22, 2008, the Osaka high court upheld the decision. On July 7, 2008, the Supreme Court of Japan upheld the decision.

Kobayashi was executed by hanging at Osaka Detention Center on February 21, 2013.


Japan hangs three prisoners, first executed under new government

By Emily Alpert - Los Angeles Times

February 21, 2013

Japan hanged three convicted killers, its Justice Ministry said Thursday. The hangings are the first executions under the new government, continuing a secretive practice that has appalled human rights groups and made Japan an outlier among wealthy democracies.

The three inmates were identified in Japanese media as Masahiro Kanagawa, convicted in a string of stabbings five years ago; Keiki Kano, sentenced for murdering a bar owner; and Kaoru Kobayashi, convicted of abducting and killing a 7-year-old girl.

“All of these cases were extremely brutal; the precious lives of the victims were robbed for very selfish reasons,” Justice Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki told reporters Thursday after the executions, the Japan Times reported. Tanigaki said the courts had thoroughly considered the cases. "I decided to order the executions after carefully going over all of the various aspects.”

Executions in Japan are carried out under a shroud of secrecy. Until about five years ago, Japan did not even reveal the names of the executed. Prisoners are given only a few hours' notice that they will be put to death. Their families find out afterward.

Hangings are closed to inmates’ and victims’ families, the media and the public, and even glimpses of the execution chambers are rare. When Japanese lawmakers successfully petitioned to visit the Tokyo gallows a decade ago, it was the first time any outsider had seen them since 1973, according to activists.

In some ways, the Japanese criminal justice system “gives the impression of an authoritarian system, not a democratic one,” said David T. Johnson, a sociology professor at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. “And executions may be the ugliest part of the whole lot.”

What little is known about life on Japan's death row comes largely from the few prisoners who have been freed. Former inmate Masao Akahori, who was retried and released after 31 years on death row, told The Times he was so traumatized after his ordeal that for years, he could not speak.

The prisoners “were not allowed to communicate, but we would knock on the walls at the back of the cell to make sure the other guy was OK,” Akahori told The Times seven years ago. Once, he said, guards came to fetch him for execution, only to realize that they had gone to the wrong cell.

Death penalty opponents say that the secrecy is engineered to avoid the candlelight vigils and media attention that surround disputed cases in the United States and elsewhere. Government officials have told reporters that the system is meant to ensure privacy and soothe the prisoners awaiting death.

“According to the government, a blanket of isolation and quiet must cover death row to assist those who are to be executed in coming to terms with their inevitable fate,” Washington Post opinion writer Charles Lane wrote, reflecting on his studies on the Japanese death penalty in 2003 and 2004. “Any other policy, I was told, would result in psychological damage.”

Japan's Supreme Court has found execution to be extreme but not “cruel,” which would violate the constitution. Government polls have continued to show overwhelming support for the death penalty, despite the continued objections of local and international human rights groups and the Japan Federation of Bar Associations.

There are now 134 inmates on death row in Japan, one of the highest levels in decades, according to Amnesty International. Executions declined while the more liberal Democratic Party of Japan was in power, with no prisoners put to death in 2011. Human rights activists worry that executions could accelerate again under new Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, whose government oversaw an unusually high number of hangings during his last term.

“The fear is that this marks the beginning of a new wave of coldblooded killing by the State,” Roseann Rife of Amnesty International said in a statement Thursday.

There have already been signs of change: The Justice Ministry recently discontinued its study groups examining the death penalty, Johnson said. Reaction to the latest hangings seems muted. Abe and his Liberal Democratic Party appear to be returning to the same practices as before.

“They’re kind of going back to the future,” Johnson said.

About two-thirds of countries do not use the death penalty, according to Amnesty International. Japan and the U.S. are unusual among wealthy democracies in imposing the punishment.



Pedophile to hang for killing Nara girl

September 27, 2006

NARA – A repeat sex offender was sentenced to death Tuesday for the kidnap-murder of a 7-year-old girl in 2004 in a gruesome case in which he used the victim’s cell phone to send her mother a photo of the corpse and to threaten to kill the girl’s sister.

Calling Kaoru Kobayashi’s actions “coldblooded and vicious,” presiding Judge Tetsuya Okuda of the Nara District Court ruled he committed all eight criminal counts against him and said, “There are no extenuating circumstances.”

Prosecutors sought the gallows for the 37-year-old newspaper deliveryman over the murder of Kaede Ariyama of Nara Prefecture, saying he cannot be rehabilitated.

Kobayashi’s counsel had argued for a lighter sentence, claiming society was partially to blame for his crime because he had an unfortunate upbringing that turned him into a pedophile.

Kobayashi pleaded guilty. “I want to be executed quickly,” he told the court.

Okuda read out the reasons for meting out the sentence and told a motionless Kobayashi to “face the seriousness of the crime.”

The focus of the trial was whether he would get the death penalty.

Twenty people have received capital punishment for murder-robbery or repeat murders since 1983, when the Supreme Court set conditions for death sentences. However, no one until Kobayashi received it for a single count of murder committed in the act of molestation.

Kobayashi is believed to have offered a ride to Ariyama on Nov. 17, 2004, as she was on her way home from school in the city of Nara. He then abducted her, took her to his apartment in Sango, molested her and drowned her in his bathtub before dumping her mutilated corpse in a farm road gutter in the town of Heguri.

Kobayashi was accused of deciding to kill Ariyama because he felt she was intelligent and would alert police if he freed her.

He took a photo of the dead girl and sent it to her mother over the girl’s mobile phone, and about a month later sent her a message threatening to target the girl’s younger sister as well.

Kobayashi’s trial, which began in April, was suspended in July while he underwent a psychiatric analysis. The professor in charge of the examination concluded he was highly likely to be a repeat offender.

Kobayashi has a record of sex offenses against children and the case spurred the Justice Ministry in June 2005 to begin sharing with the National Police Agency information on such offenders who have been freed from prison.

Okuda said it would be “extremely difficult” for Kobayashi to be rehabilitated, given his criminal record of sex offenses and because he has shown no remorse over Ariyama’s slaying.

Hirohiko Tanaka, the principal of Ariyama’s elementary school, told reporters after the ruling it is only natural that Kobayashi be hanged but added that this would never ease the family’s sorrow.

He noted that even though nearly two years have passed since the killing, parents still accompany their children to and from the school, and teachers and parents lay flowers on Ariyama’s desk, which was moved to the principal’s office.

“For the children and parents, the case will never end,” Tanaka said.



Abducted girl, 7, found slain

Police probe link to grisly text message sent to mother

November 19, 2004

NARA – A 7-year-old girl was found dead early Thursday in the town of Heguri, Nara Prefecture, after her mother received a text message on her mobile phone that read, “I’ve got your daughter,” police said.

Police believe Kaede Ariyama, an elementary school first-grader in the city of Nara, was kidnapped and murdered. A photo of her was attached to the text message, but there was no ransom demand, they said.

She disappeared after calling her mother, Eri, 28, on her mobile phone around 1:40 p.m. Wednesday to say she was returning home for her bike to ride back to school to watch her mother’s volleyball practice, police said. She had left school at around 1 p.m.

A girl at the school saw a man drive away with Kaede in his car near her house shortly before 2 p.m., police said.

Kaede got into the car after having a conversation with the man while he sat in the vehicle, the girl told police. She said she had never seen the man before.

Kaede’s mother tried to reach her on her mobile phone at around 2:30 p.m., but could not get through.

The mother received the text message, which is believed to have been sent from Kaede’s mobile phone, at around 8 p.m. She had reported her daughter missing after she did not return home for her bicycle.

A police autopsy showed that Kaede had drowned sometime between 4 and 10 p.m.

More than 100 police officers and local residents had combed the area searching for the girl.

Kaede’s barefoot body was found by a motorist at 12:05 a.m. Wednesday in a roadside ditch in Heguri, about 6 km from her home. The body was found face-down, in a squatting position, police said.

Records show the message to the mother’s cellular phone had been sent from around the site, investigators said.

The girl was dressed in the same clothes — a red sweat shirt and dark blue denim skirt — she had worn to school, but her mobile phone, bag, shoes, socks and a denim jacket were not found, police said. They suspect the girl was slain elsewhere and the body was dumped at the site.

Her cell phone was equipped with a global positioning device, and police were analyzing records of the calls made to and from the handset.

Police said a junior high school student who is a neighbor of the Ariyamas saw an unfamiliar car parked near their home between Tuesday morning and Wednesday morning. They were trying to identify the vehicle to see if it is related to the incident.

Kaede lived with her parents and her 2-year-old sister in a house 500 meters southeast of Higashiyama Station on the Ikoma Line of Kinki Nippon Railway Co.

The incident shocked the normally quiet neighborhood of new homes built among rice paddies. Residents said there is little traffic after sunset.



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