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Volunteer, 79, whose story inspired film ‘Reunion’ accused of raping girl

IWATE (TR) – He was considered a hero for his work in taking care of numerous bodies in the aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011. His deeds inspired a book and, later, a film.

But that sterling reputation is in tatters following his arrest last month over the alleged rape of a girl.

According to Kyodo News (July 14), Atsushi Chiba, 79, is alleged to have sexually assaulted the girl inside his vehicle while it was parked in a mountainous area of Kamaishi City on around December 5, 2019.

Upon his arrest on suspicion of coerced intercourse on July 14, Chiba denied the allegations. “I didn’t do it,” the suspect was quoted by the Kamaishi Police Station.

After the incident, persons connected to the girl contact police. An investigation was then launched.



Chiba was the subject of the 2011 non-fiction book “The Bodies at the End of the Earthquake and Tsunami” by writer Kota Ishii. That work was then the basis of the film “Reunion,” which stars Toshiyuki Nishida as the character modeled after Chiba.

In the film, Nishida is a retired funeral home employee who volunteers to assist officials and medical workers in the daunting task of preparing numerous soiled bodies stricken with rigor mortis for one final visit from family members.

Born in Ofunato City in southern Iwate, Chiba moved to Kamaishi about 40 years ago. He served a as a welfare officer for at least 20 years, a post he held until last year. He was also the head of a neighborhood association.

For someone with such a lengthy public service record, his arrest might might be surprising in his local community. In fact, he opposite was true.

According to the web site for tabloid Shukan Josei, Chiba is known for sexual and power harassment. (The victim in the case is the daughter of an acquaintance.) “Nobody has anything good to say about him,” one woman said.

When contacted by Shukan Josei, writer Ishii said that he was “surprised” by the report of Chiba’s arrest. “Since it is under investigation at this stage, I can not speculate, but I will seek the truth on my own,” Ishii said.