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April 18, 2007

Murder In The Mothers Club

In Japan, the pain of being excluded from cool-mom cliques has driven women to kill their children's friends

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In playgrounds and in preschools across the U.S., parenting has become a competitive sport. Taking their children's success as a sign of their own, mothers often go to extremes to win them entree into the "right" programs and cliques. But could the increasingly high social stakes ever drive a mother to commit murder? Consider what's happened, more than once, in Japan . . . As Mie Taniguchi sped along a deserted country road one Friday in February of 2006, she felt tired and spent. For the past few nights, the 34-year-old had been unable to sleep as she struggled with her feelings of loneliness. As happens with many women in Japan, Taniguchi's only friends were the mothers at her daughter's kindergarten-but recently, they had been distant, and she felt bitterly excluded. Now, she was afraid they would reject her 5-year-old daughter, too.

This morning, it was Taniguchi's turn to drive her daughter and two of her classmates to their kindergarten in Nagahama. In the backseat, Wakana Taketomo and Jin Sano sat quietly, staring sleepily out the window. Taniguchi mistook their silence for a deliberate snub of her daughter. That idea pushed her over the edge.

Hitting the brakes, Taniguchi pulled off the road, reached into her handbag, and drew out a thin-bladed fish knife. As the children screamed in horror, she launched a frenzied attack, stabbing Wakana 19 times and Jin 13 times. Ignoring her daughter's terrified pleas, Taniguchi dumped Wakana on the side of the road and threw Jin into an irrigation ditch. When a passerby discovered them 30 minutes later, the children were alive but just barely-Wakana was declared dead at 9:45 a.m., and Jin died a few hours later.

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