On Tuesday morning at a crowded bus stop near Tokyo in Kawasaki city, a man armed with knives went on a rampage resulting in the death of two people and injuring 16 others, including more than a dozen of school going girls. One of the schoolchildren, a 11 year old girl, Hanako Kuribayashi and a 39 year old man, Satoshi Oyama, a foreign ministry official died in the hospital after being stabbed in the neck.
The attacker, identified by NHK, Japan’s public broadcaster, as a man in his 50s, held knives in both his hand and attacked the victims- 16 of whom were schoolgirls. The attacker stabbed himself in the neck after the harrowing attack and died in the hospital. The attacker’s identity and motivation were not immediately established by the police. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe condemned the attack, saying he felt “strong anger” against it. “It is a very harrowing case. I offer my heartfelt condolences to the victims and hope the injured recover quickly,” Mr Abe said.
The 13 injured children, believed to be girls aged from six to 12, are reportedly pupils at Caritas, a local Catholic school. The attack took place as the children were at the bus stop waiting to take a school bus to the school, witnesses said. Caritas is a private institution founded by Canadian missionaries, the only Catholic school in Kawasaki. Emergency services soon arrived at the scene and set up medical tents to treat the wounded. Locals have now begun placing flowers outside the site of the attack in a tribute to the victims.
Schools in Japan have stepped up safety measures ever since a knife-wielding man, entered an elementary school in Ikeda, Osaka Prefecture, and killed eight students and wounded 15 others in 2001.Many schools lock their gates once classes start and security cameras have been introduced. Volunteers and members of parent teacher associations also line the routes leading to schools. But such measures are limited. A senior education ministry official commented that it will be difficult to totally prevent such crimes even if the plans are thoroughly implemented.
US President Donald Trump, who was in Japan on the last day of a state visit, also offered his “prayers and sympathy” to the victims. “All Americans stand with the people of Japan and grieve for the victims and for their families,” Trump said during a visit to a naval base near Tokyo.
Japan has been considered particularly safe with one of the lowest rates of violent crime in the industrialised world. The strict and effective gun laws in the country has ensured an eradication of gun crime. In 2014, there were just six gun deaths in Japan as compared to 33,599 in the US. The anti-gun sentiment runs deep within the society which was once torn apart in wars and doesn’t want to experience it again. The sentiment also applies to the law and order department with Japanese police officers rarely using guns and putting much greater emphasis on martial arts – all are expected to become a black belt in judo. They spend more time practising kendo (fighting with bamboo swords) than learning how to use firearms. However, in the last decade it has witnessed sporadic instances of mass killings involving knives.