The once peaceful Japanese city of Kawasaki, near Tokyo was turned into a bloodbath on Tuesday. A knife-wielding man attacked a group of schoolchildren who were simply waiting for a bus in the residential area. The total number of people injured in this unprovoked attack is least 18, and two have sadly died from their injuries – an 11-year-old girl and a 39-year-old man.
Despite the horrific nature of this attack, violence is extremely rare and Japan is known to have one of the world’s lowest rates of violent crime. It’s quite common to see children as young as four walking to school by themselves. While this might seem absurd to citizens of the US or UK, this is actually a normal practice in Japan because it is considered to be so safe, or so everyone thought.
In recent years, there have been a number of knife attacks. Most notably, in 2016, 19 people at a care centre for people with mental disabilities were stabbed to death by a former worker. It is reported that he said he wanted those with disabilities to “disappear”. Clearly he was mentally disturbed and doesn’t represent the majority of the population. Another example goes right back to 2001 when eight students were killed after a man entered an elementary school in Osaka.
This attack joins these two despicable acts. The suspect, a man in his 50s, who has not been named, proceeded to stab himself in the neck after his attack spree and later passed away in hospital. Holding knives in both hands, the suspect appeared to randomly attack the victims – 16 of whom were schoolgirls. There is currently no known motive. The two fatalities of the attack have since been named by police as Hanako Kuribayashi, who was in the sixth grade, and foreign ministry official Satoshi Oyama, who is believed to be the parent of another child.
A number of political figures have spoken out about the attack. The Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, said he felt strong anger against the horrific attack and has publicly condemned it. He called it a very “harrowing case” and has offered his condolences to all the victims. US President Donald Trump, who was on the last day of his state visit in Japan has also offered his prayers and sympathy to the victims and their families.
So, how did this incident unfold? To make sense of it all, police have pieced together event. It started just before 08:00 a.m. local time on Tuesday (around 23:00 GMT, Monday night) near a local park and a train station. A large number of students were waiting to board their bus to the nearby Caritas elementary school, which is a private Catholic school. One of the witnesses, the driver of the Caritas bus, said that he saw a man approach the queue of students and started slashing and stabbing at them. He then boarded the bus and began stabbing children inside too. The man was heard shouting “I’m going to kill you” throughout the duration of the attack.
After the attack and after stabbing himself in the neck, the police managed to apprehend him and take him to hospital, where he later died of his self-inflicted injuries. Locals have now begun placing flowers and notes with messages on in the vicinity of the attack.