Hana Kimura death: Man charged over cyberbullying of Japanese reality TV star

Fans of star, a professional wrestler, decry court fine of £59 as ‘too lenient’ punishment for cyberbully

A Japanese man who sent hateful online messages to a professional wrestler who later killed herself has been charged but is not to face trial.

Police told AFP that the man, who has not been identified, was charged with cyberbullying Hana Kimura, who was also a TV reality show star. She died in May 2020. A Tokyo court issued an order to fine the man 9,000 yen (£59).

Before her death, Kimura received a barrage of hateful messages from hundreds of accounts. Police told AFP that the man charged on Tuesday sent insulting messages to Kimura’s social media accounts, including the lines “You have such an awful personality, is your life worth living?” and “Hey, hey. When will you die?"

Prosecutors decided to levy criminal charges against the man as his posts were “particularly malicious”, Kyodo News reported.

Kimura, 22 at the time of her death, was one of six members of Terrace House, a Netflix reality show, also aired on FujiTV, which featured a disparate group of strangers living together. She drew broad public attention after the airing of an episode that featured an altercation between her and a male cast member. The show was cancelled after her death.

With her pink hair, muscular physique and animated character, Kimura drew attention as a public figure in Giappone. Her death underscored the issue of cyberbullying, and the pressures that women face to conform to social conventions.

After the verdict was announced, supporters of Kimura expressed frustration at the perceived leniency of the punishment. “I am extremely upset the person who cyber-bullied Hana Kimura basically got nothing,” one fan page disse on Twitter. Un altro disse: “$80 is not the cost of a human being’s life.”

Kyoko Kimura, the late wrestler’s mother, has filed a suit seeking more than $20,000 in damages from the man, and this week announced the launch of Remember Hana, an organisation mandated to fight cyberbullying. Last year she told Japan’s Mainichi newspaper that her daughter “had a lively personality, and she was always fussed over”.

Japan’s health ministry said 20,919 people in the country had died by suicide in 2020 750 more than the previous year. Experts have said that conditions created or exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, such as school closures and increased economic hardship, could have been factors in the rise.

Michiko Ueda, a professor and expert on suicide prevention, based at Waseda University, Tokyo, said the increase in suicides was pronounced among women under 40. Ueda disse in a public talk last month that in the past year there had been suicides of several prominent entertainers in Japan; this could have the effect of causing an increase in such deaths among the general public, lei disse.

Ueda added that it was important, in attempting to understand the increase, to resist “simplistic explanations behind suicides”.

In the UK and Ireland, Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123, or email jo@samaritans.org o jo@samaritans.ie. In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is 13 11 14. Other international helplines can be found at www.befrienders.org.

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