November 22, 1999
Tokyo, Japan
Mitsuko Yamada (35) brings her neighbor’s 2-year-old daughter into a public restroom and strangles her with a scarf

A total of 550 students had applied to a prestigious kindergarten; Haruna Wakayama had been one of 20 applicants to be admitted. This reportedly angered Yamada, whose daughter did not make the cut. Yamada also claimed she felt “snubbed” by Haruna’s mother, who had been friendly with Yamada for the previous five years as the women often brought their sons to a nearby park at the same time.

Yamada began harboring murderous feelings towards Haruna’s mother, and then to the little girl herself. Out of anger or envy, Yamada brought Haruna into a public restroom, strangled her, and put her body in a plastic bag. Yamada then took a train to her parents’ home where she buried the toddler’s body. She turned herself in to authorities a few days later, showing them the location of Haruna’s corpse. She pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 14 years in prison.

The News Journal. December 2, 1999


  • Eisenstock, Alan. The Kindergarten Wars: The Battle to Get into America’s Best Private Schools. Grand Central Publishing, 2006
  • “Woman gets 14 years for strangling girls.” The Japan Times. December 6, 2001. Accessed: November 22, 2018.
  • Coleman, Joseph. “Japan frets that school stress is creating killers.” The News Journal [Wilmington, Delaware]. December 2, 1999
  • Tolbert, Kathryn. “A Child’s Killing Startles Japanese.” Washington Post. November 27, 1999

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