あさまさんそうじけん【浅間山荘事件】

■ On the morning of February 19, 1972, five men armed with rifles and ammunition broke into a mountain lodge, called the 浅間山荘(あさまさんそう) and owned by Kawai Musical Instruments in Karuizawa, Nagano Prefecture, and took hostage the wife of the lodge's caretaker. For the next nine days, they remained barricaded inside the lodge while shooting at the police who surrounded the building. Finally, using shields and water cannon, the police broke into the lodge, rescued the hostage, and captured the five men. The nine-day drama was played out in continuous television coverage.

During the siege, the police and public were not certain who the hostage-takers were, though they were suspected of being members of a leftist organization whose mountain hideout had been found and several members of which had been arrested shortly before the siege began. When finally captured, the men did turn out to be members of that group, which was called the 連合赤軍(れんごうせきぐん).

The drama did not end with the rescue of the hostage. In the weeks following the siege at the lodge, over a dozen bodies of 連合赤軍 members were found at various mountain hideouts. These people had been killed by their comrades, often in mass beatings, because of their perceived lack of commitment to the political agenda of the group. The cruelty of the killings, the mass hysteria that had existed within the 連合赤軍, and the unremarkable middle-class origins of the perpetrators shocked many people, and the incident, called the 浅間山荘事件(じけん), became a defining event for the second half of the 20th century in Japan.

The incident also became the subject of many articles, books, novels, and movies. Perhaps the most vivid account is told in the three-volume 『あさま山荘 1972』 by 坂口弘(さかぐちひろし). Written in prison by one of the hostage-takers and a leader of the 連合赤軍, this memoir relates at length both the lodge siege and the events that preceded it, including accounts of the murders in excruciating detail. Sakaguchi was sentenced to death for his role in the killings.


This entry was created by Tom Gally, with additional contributions by Brian Chandler and Gareth Edwards.


Created 2000-07-20. Spelling of "siege" corrected by BC 2000-07-22. Spelling of "perpetrators" corrected by GE 2001-05-07.


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