• CRIME & COURTS

Patient mourns doctor’s death a month after Osaka clinic arson attack

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Flowers are offered Sunday in front of the building where an arson attack occurred last month in Kita Ward, Osaka.

A strong sense of loss continues to linger a month after 25 people were killed in an arson attack at a psychiatric clinic in Osaka.

Clinic head Kotaro Nishizawa, 49, numbered among the dead. In addition to treating patients, Nishizawa also ran a facility that helped people with developmental difficulties find and retain employment.

“Some people can’t be saved by medical treatment alone,” Nishizawa reportedly said to those around him.

A 37-year-old Osaka man who attended the Arufa job support center in Umeda, Kita Ward, Osaka, says he cherishes the conversations he had with Nishizawa, who told him, “You can live your own way.”

The man first visited the Nishi-Umeda Kokoro to Karada no Clinic, headed by Nishizawa, in 2017. The man says he was troubled by repeatedly making mistakes at the wholesale seafood company at which he worked. The clinic subsequently diagnosed him with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

The man continued to work while visiting the clinic, recalling how he had been struggling due to a lack of understanding about his disability from those around him. “[Nishizawa advised me,] ‘Take the time to face up to yourself, and find a job that fits your personality.’” The man quit his job in March 2019, and began attending the Arufa center, which was established the following May.

During his visits, the man reassessed and brushed up his skills through basic training, such as taking notes and working in a group. In November last year, Nishizawa introduced him to a training program at a farm. The man says he felt capable of working there and was planning to tell Nishizawa when the arson attack occurred.

The Arufa facility closed Friday as result of the incident.

“I’d been feeling inferior, because I couldn’t even achieve the simplest of things,” the man recalls, speaking through tears. “However, after [Nishizawa] buoyed me with positive words, I felt well enough to think about getting a job.”

Arufa was one of the about 3,000 employment transition centers stipulated in the Services and Supports for Persons with Disabilities Law. Many of the centers — situated across the country — are administered by companies, while a few are run by doctors, according to the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry.

A former Arufa employee, 44, said: “Mr. Nishizawa wanted to support people with disabilities, not only through medical treatment, by also by helping them find a job they could hold down so as to make a living. It’s a shame his efforts ended this way.”