KYOTO – A 12-year-old girl was stabbed to death Saturday morning by a teacher at a cram school in Uji, Kyoto Prefecture, police said.
Yu Hagino, 23, a Doshisha University senior and a part-time teacher at the Ujishinmei branch of the Kyoshin chain of cram schools, was arrested for allegedly killing Sayano Horimoto, a sixth-grader.
Hagino has admitted to stabbing the girl, police said. Investigators quoted him as saying, “I stabbed her with a kitchen knife in the course of a dispute.” He was also quoted as saying Horimoto previously “poked fun at him.”
It was the third slaying of a schoolgirl nationwide since Nov. 22.
Hagino was recruited by the cram school in November 2003 and taught Japanese and English.
The cram school was scheduled to hold an examination on Japanese for 13 students from 9 a.m. to noon, skipping regular classes.
But Hagino separated Horimoto from the other 12 students, telling them he would conduct a questionnaire over his Japanese class and ordered the others to go to another classroom, investigative sources said.
After they left, Hagino locked the classroom door and stabbed Horimoto in the face and neck with a 29-cm-long knife, the sources said.
The classroom is equipped with a security camera, but a monitor in another room was not on. Police suspect Hagino had turned it off.
After stabbing the girl, Hagino used his cell phone to make an emergency call to police shortly after 9 a.m., they said.
When another teacher finally persuaded Hagino to unlock the door and come out, he was still holding his cell phone and there was blood on his hands, they said.
Horimoto was rushed to a hospital where she was pronounced dead.
Police confiscated two kitchen knives and a hammer from Hagino.
Kyoshin said Hagino was not scheduled to work Saturday and that the questionnaire he said he would conduct also had not been scheduled.
Sadaaki Tachiki, the president of Kyoshin Co., which operates the Kyoshin chain of some 200 cram school branches in Kyoto and surrounding prefectures, said in a hastily arranged news conference that the girl had developed an aversion to Hagino.
At the beginning of December, Tachiki said, she began to refuse to take classes from Hagino, who had taught her Japanese.
The prestigious Doshisha University said Hagino enrolled there in April 2001. He is a law student majoring in criminology, it said.
But in June 2003, he was arrested on suspicion of stealing a purse from an unattended bag in the university library and injuring a security guard. The university suspended him for a year and a half.
Kyoshin officials said Saturday they were unaware of Hagino’s criminal record when the cram school hired him on a part-time basis in November 2003 — while he was suspended from Doshisha.
One official said it is Kyoshin’s policy to ask applicants to submit their resume and closely check its content. But the official added that it is difficult to know whether applicants have a criminal record because universities often refuse to disclose such information, citing students’ privacy.
One student at the cram school said after the slaying, “Mr. Hagino was a nice teacher who sometimes entertained us by telling jokes.”
But the same student cited an incident two weeks ago in which Hagino scolded Horimoto in front of other students because she forgot to bring an exercise book to class.
According to people who know Hagino, he has no brothers or sisters and earned top grades at his junior high school. But they added he had been bullied and often quarreled with her mother in those days.
Kyoshin is a large cram school chain based in the city of Kyoto. It generally has a good reputation and is noted for closely following up on its students.
The Uji school is on the second floor of a three-story building, and many elementary school students stay in class until 11 p.m.
Kyoshin recruits young and enthusiastic teachers, many of them college students, to compete with other cram schools.