Slain Japanese student inspires gun conference
The parents of a Japanese exchange student shot and killed in Central 20 years ago said Wednesday that they would like to host American exchange students in Japan in the future so the students can change their thinking on owning guns.
“A number of people think that they can protect their lives with a gun, but that’s not the way it is in Japan,” Mieko Hattori, mother of Yoshihiro “Yoshi” Hattori, said through an interpreter. “We don’t have guns in our lives, and we are safe without guns.”
Masaichi Hattori, Yoshi’s father, and Mieko Hattori flew to Baton Rouge on Wednesday for a conference Friday and Saturday at the Unitarian Church of Baton Rouge about gun violence in the city and nationwide.
The conference is being held in Yoshi Hattori’s memory.
Mieko Hattori is scheduled to speak at the conference, as is Baton Rouge Police Chief Dewayne White.
The Hattoris are also expected to meet with Mayor-President Kip Holden on Thursday.
Yoshi Hattori and Webb Haymaker were on their way to a Halloween party in Central on Oct. 17, 1992, but pulled up to the wrong house, belonging to Rodney and Bonnie Peairs.
Rodney Peairs shot Yoshi Hattori that night, thinking he was an intruder. Hattori died on the way to a hospital.
Peairs was found innocent of manslaughter in 1993 but was found liable in a civil suit filed by the Hattoris.
Yoshi Hattori’s death drew intense media attention from Japan as well as across the United States.
A group of about five Japanese reporters interviewed the Hattoris at the airport Wednesday and filmed them as they were greeted by Richard and Holley Haymaker, who hosted Yoshi Hattori while he was attending McKinley High School.
The Hattoris and Haymakers have become outspoken gun control advocates following Yoshi Hattori’s death.
The Hattoris sent a petition with more than 1 million signatures to President Bill Clinton in October 1993 urging him to tighten gun control laws in the United States. The Hattoris and Haymakers also met with Clinton in the White House the following month to discuss gun control, Holley Haymaker has said.
Mieko Hattori said Wednesday she wants to keep working with Americans to change the gun culture here.
“We’re going to challenge for a better society,” Mieko Hattori said.
Holley Haymaker has said that Yoshi Hattori was an energetic and outgoing teenager who loved American culture.
Masaichi Hattori said his son was shy back in Japan, which is why he tried to be gregarious in the United States.
“All of a sudden, he disappears,” Masaichi Hattori said. “That’s really sad for every parent.”
Peace stones from Nagoya, Japan, the Hattoris’ hometown, reside at the Unitarian Church in Yoshi Hattori’s honor. They will be rededicated on Sunday.
Masaichi Hattori said 2,000 origami cranes were created in his son’s honor.
“Japan and U.S. are divided by an ocean, but we’re trying to express our feelings against guns and try to make a better world without guns,” Masaichi Hattori said.
The trip to Baton Rouge is the first for either of Yoshi Hattori’s parents in at least a decade. Mieko Hattori said she traveled here 10 years ago, and Masaichi said he last came to Baton Rouge 18 years ago.
“The airport is much cleaner,” Mieko Hattori joked.
Rodney Peairs has declined comment to The Advocate about the 20-year anniversary of the shooting.
The conference at the Unitarian Church, at 8470 Goodwood Blvd., begins at 7 p.m. Friday and 9:30 a.m. Saturday. The peace stones will be rededicated at 9:30 a.m. Sunday.