Bomb threat that forced Tokyo schools to close on Friday is likely a copycat

by and

Staff Writers

Dozens of schools canceled afternoon classes Friday in response to an emailed bomb threat sent to the Tokyo Metropolitan Board of Education warning that explosions would occur at 3:34 p.m.

The threat, sent Wednesday, said, “lethal bombs made from pressure cookers have been planted at more than one elementary school in Tokyo.”

No explosions had been reported by Friday evening.

An official with the board told The Japan Times Friday that it has ordered city- and ward-level education boards to beef up safety checks at schools.

Since schools are not mandated to report what measures they have taken, the board official said he was not fully aware of how schools in each district handled the situation. But he said facilities in at least two to three districts of Tokyo canceled afternoon classes on Friday.

Municipal governments and public schools continue to be plagued by bomb threats, even after Wednesday’s arrest of a 20-year-old college student in Saitama Prefecture who turned himself in and claimed responsibility for making bomb threats.

Similar scares have taken place in Kofu, Yamanashi Prefecture, Mito, Ibaraki Prefecture and the cities of Chiba and Nagano, leading to closures of schools and other facilities.

Kofu closed all public day care centers, elementary and junior high schools, and a government building on Monday afternoon. The email in this case said bombs would explode at 3:34 p.m. that day as well.

The threats are likely pranks rather than acts of revenge, said Yo Mikami, a journalist well-versed in Internet culture. Mikami said the detonation time — 3:34 — has special meaning in the Internet community.

The number is often used in anonymous forums to poke fun at fans of the Hanshin Tigers baseball team. It refers to the team’s humiliating loss to the Chiba Lotte Marines in the 2005 Japan Series. The Marines thumped the Tigers by an aggregate score of 33-4 over four games in the best-of-seven series.

He said the threats over the past few days following the student’s arrest are probably copycat threats.

“It is not difficult for Internet users to copy and spread these threats,” he said.