Social media is supposed to enhance your life. It’s supposed to help you keep in touch with loved ones and reconnect with friends you haven’t seen in years. Sadly, that’s not how it works. To paraphrase the comedian Kevin Bridges, if social media was a bar, you’d look around for a bit before saying, “This place is full of a**holes, shall we go somewhere else?” Far too often, social media is nothing more than a competition between those who can shout the loudest about how woke they are. Or it’s a breeding ground for racists, homophobes, and the kind of people you generally wouldn’t piss on if they were on fire. Yet, for a vast majority of people, it is a necessary evil and one that they would struggle to live without. Where there is a struggle, there are always those who look to prey on these moments. Takahiro Shiraishi was one of these predators, and between August and October of 2017, he would etch himself into serial killer infamy.
For all intents and purposes, Takahiro Shiraishi was your normal, average twenty-something. He was cheerful, kind, and polite, hard-working, and very close to his family. He lived in Zuma so he could be closer to his father, who was living alone after his mother and he had separated some years prior. According to one neighbor, the two spent a lot of time together. In fact, another neighbor reported that the older of the two would always speak of his son in glowing terms and always looked forward to them going for drinks together. This seems to be the modus operandi of nearly every serial killer throughout time.
If you go back over the history, of those men who feel compelled to kill again and again, with a few exceptions, they all seem to follow the same outward pattern. They are usually polite, if somewhat quiet, individuals who project the appearance of perfect normality. Yet underneath the surface, they struggle to keep their dark secret hidden and their compulsions in check. This is why, when they are inevitably caught, those that knew them are always shocked that they could be one and the same person. But if you look closely enough, there are always signs, and Takahiro Shiraishi was no different. According to his school friends, Shiraishi and others played a sweet little game where they would take turns choking each other to the point of blacking out. This alone should’ve been enough to set off alarm bells, and not just where Shiraishi was concerned, either. Anyone willing to indulge in strangulation ‘for fun’ should definitely be on a watch list somewhere.
Leaving education, Shiraishi landed a job as a sex scout. His role consisted of convincing women to work as prostitutes in the red-light district of Kabukicho, Tokyo. To do this, he would lure them into the nightclubs there and use his charm to persuade them to turn tricks for a living. When his crimes became public knowledge a lot of his former work colleagues were surprised that this gentleman could be responsible for such horrific acts, but one of the bosses wasn’t shocked at all:
A scout’s job doesn’t end when he brings a girl to a club. He’s like a manager and consultant, negotiating her treatment and giving guidance on getting money from clients to support herself. This relationship continues until she leaves the business. Girls nowadays tend to be in it for what they can get and are always thinking about moving to a better club, so they trust scouts more than the people where they work.
Being able to convince someone to sell their body for money can’t be an easy thing to do. After all, you’re giving yourself up to be nothing more than an object, so for Shiraishi to be successful enough within the industry that he could make a decent living out of it, he must’ve been born with a silver tongue in his mouth. This would later prove to be a talent he would use for his own twisted pleasure, but at this point, his career as a sex scout was fruitful yet ultimately flawed. He was arrested in February 2017 for pimping out girls to the local brothels and was sentenced to a 14-month prison term. Unfortunately, this was suspended for three years, and if it hadn’t been, then what followed would never have taken place.
Finding himself unemployed, Shiraishi did what most people in his circumstances would do and spent most of his day on the internet. It was here that he would start to hunt for eight of the nine poor souls who would become his victims. During his time in the sex industry, he’d used Twitter as a platform to coerce young girls into working the nightclubs for him, but now he would change tact and start preying on people who were at the end of their tether. He set up a new account in March 2017 and set about convincing suicidal women that he could help them achieve their goals and promised to die with them. His bio reportedly said,
I want to help people who are really in pain. Please DM me anytime.
Sadly, this was a lie. Instead of giving them the send-off that they had hoped for, those that replied to him were murdered in cold blood. In a three month period, he took the lives of nine people, but it wasn’t until the brother of one of his victims went out of his way to search for his missing sister that Shiraishi’s crimes would come to light. Obviously concerned that his sibling had seemingly vanished off the face of the earth, the young man started his own investigation. It wasn’t long before he found that she had posted a message on Twitter, looking for someone to join her in a suicide pact.
Understandably horrified by what he was reading, the victim’s brother dug deeper and soon discovered that the man who had agreed to her request was Takahiro Shiraishi. He struck up a conversation with him, pretending to be another lost soul looking for an escape, and arranged a rendevous. He then enlisted the help of a female friend before contacting the police—that is, depending on which news report you read. There are others that state that he simply went to the local authorities when he noticed how suspicious Shiraishi’s Twitter account appeared to be. Either way, on October 31st, 2017, they raided Takahiro Shiraishi flat and couldn’t believe what they found.
He had nine heads stashed away in coolers and toolboxes around his home, along with various limbs and bones. In the face of such overwhelming evidence against him, he simply confessed. He explained via Twitter that he’d convinced his victims to meet up before drugging them. He then proceeded to rape them before strangling them to death. The only one of the nine who wasn’t a victim of this terrible plan was the boyfriend of the first person he killed. When he went to speak to Shiraishi after she had gone missing, he suffered the same fate as the others. Shiraishi then explained how he hacked the bodies up and threw chunks of flesh out with the garbage. This would explain why, as it was reported by someone living in the block of flats, he had the extractor fan running 24 hours a day.
The case stunned Japan, as did the matter of fact way that Shiraishi relayed details of his crimes to the police. He was cold, calculating, and seemed to show zero remorse for his actions. This went against him at his trial. The judge said,
None of the nine victims consented to be killed, including by silent consent. It is extremely grave that the lives of nine young people were taken away. The dignity of the victims was trampled upon.
He then sentenced Shiraishi to death.
Whenever a news story of this magnitude breaks, it always boggles the mind. I have no idea how one human being can treat another as a piece of meat, there for butchering. Yet this is what Takahiro Shiraishi did. There is a possibility that his arrest for soliciting women into prostitution was the catalyst for his descent into madness. After all, it was only when he could no longer work as a scout for the sex industry did this killing spree take form, and he is alleged to have told his father in June, one month before he set off on his murderous rampage,
…there is no meaning in life…I do not know what I am living for.
But there is more than enough evidence to suggest that Takahiro Shiraishi was just looking for an excuse to become a serial killer. For a start, there’s is the ‘game’ that he was more than eager to participate in when he was younger and, as I said earlier in this article, that should’ve been more than enough for those who knew him to start to have suspicions that not everything was as it seemed to be with their friend. There is also the fact that he was quite eager to join an industry where he could use his cunning and charm to turn women out for money. These are all the hallmarks of a sociopath and if, as I suspect, that’s what Takahiro Shiraishi is, then it was only a matter of time before he set about acting out his fantasies.
Even more worrying, at least for this author, is how easy it was for him to find his victims through social media. Don’t worry, I’m not about to go on a massive rant about the evils of this medium. If you choose to use it, then that’s your choice. Personally, I don’t, but as a father of two young girls, the way he could seek out women between the ages of 15-26, who were obviously at the lowest points of their lives, fills me with utter dread for what lays in wait for my children when they grow up and want to start using whatever the equivalent is by then.
There is no excuse for bad parenting, but having been someone who suffered depression for many years, I also know how simple it is to hide the signs from others, especially those who you love. I also think it falls to the companies who run these sites to be far more vigilant in how their product is used. It always seems as if it takes something to happen that is media-worthy for those in power to crack down on specific behaviors, and it really shouldn’t be this way. They need to have contingency plans in place to be able to reach out and help those who are literally crying out for it. Until they do, I fear that Takahiro Shiraishi won’t be the last person to trawl these places looking for people to exploit.