I thought the scariest thing that was going to happen in Japan this ハロウィン (Harouin, Halloween) was the 衆議院選挙 (shūgi-in senkyo, Lower House election). Over the course of the evening, however, a ニュース速報 (nyūsu sokuhō, breaking news) alert reported a knife attack on the Keio Line in Tokyo that left 17 passengers injured.

東京調布市を走行中の電車内で乗客が切りつけられるなどして17人がけがをした (Tōkyō Chōfu-shi o sōkōchū no densha-nai de jōkyaku ga kiritsukerareru nado shite jūnana-nin ga kega o shita, Passengers were slashed in a train passing through the Tokyo city of Chofu, leaving 17 people injured), reported national broadcaster NHK.

The 容疑者 (yōgisha, suspect), later identified as Kyota Hattori, told investigators he was inspired by a different knife attack that took place on the Odakyu Line on Aug. 6 that left 10 passengers injured. In both cases, 容疑者は特急電車に乗り込んで、刃物を振り回した (yōgisha wa tokkyū densha ni norikonde, hamono o furimawashita, the suspects boarded limited express trains and brandished knives).

In typically safe Japan, such incidents are given a lot of attention by the media. Reports came through again when, on Nov. 8, a 69-year-old man attempted to start a fire on a shinkansen, later telling police: 京王線の事件の真似をした (Keiō sen no jiken no mane o shita, [I wanted to] copy the incident on the Keio Line).

In such situations, it can be difficult for non-Japanese speakers to follow a barrage of constant news updates via the news or social media. Getting to know the sentence patterns that are used by journalists who report on crimes can help with your ability to read more quickly and perhaps keep you safe if such an emergency is unfolding around you.

When talking about 犯罪 (hanzai, crime), it’s common to see the passive voice used as it can inject emotion into a statement and convey the idea that something bad has happened to the subject.

Take the crime-free sentence of 友達が自転車を使いました (tomodachi ga jitensha o tsukaimashita, a friend used [my] bicycle), for example. This will be read by Japanese speakers as an objective description of an event that merely states what happened.

However, putting the same sentence into the passive voice — 友達に自転車を使われました (tomodachi ni jitensha o tsukawaremashita, [my] bicycle was used by my friend) — gives it the nuance that the speaker was inconvenienced by their friend’s action and feels mad or sad about it.

When conjugating the passive form of a Group 1 verb, change the final う (u) to あ (a) and add 〜れた (~reta). (The crime will often already have happened when it’s being reported, which is why we’re using the past 〜れた over 〜れる [~reru]). Therefore, 盗む (nusumu, to steal) becomes 盗まれた (nusumareta, to be robbed), 殺す (korosu, to murder) becomes 殺された (korosareta, to be murdered) and 刺す (sasu, to stab) becomes 刺された (sasareta, to be stabbed).

When dealing with Group 2 verbs, the final る (ru) becomes られる (rareru), so だまし取る (damashitoru, to deceive) becomes だまし取られた (damashitorareta, to be deceived). And する (suru, to do) becomes された (sareta, to be done) and can be combined with certain nouns: 誘拐する (yūkai suru, to kidnap) becomes 誘拐された (yūkai sareta, to be kidnapped).

Some crime features may have headlines that simply read, 「なぜ殺された?」 (“Naze korosareta?,” “Why [were they] killed?”) The basic crime-related sentence, however, will usually feature a 被害者 (higaisha, victim), 犯人 (hannin, criminal/offender) or 容疑者, and the harm-inflicting verb.

The 被害者 is paired with the particle は (wa) or が (ga), while the 犯人 is paired with に (ni). For example, 田中さんは誰かに車を盗まれた (Tanaka-san wa dareka ni kuruma o nusumareta, Mr. Tanaka had his car stolen by someone). In this case, 田中さん (Tanaka-san, Mr. Tanaka) is the victim and 誰か (dareka, someone) is the suspected criminal.

You can even use this structure when talking about films you watched: ハロウィンに見たホラー映画で、キャンプをしていた10代の子が殺人鬼に殺されてた。怖かったよ! (Harouin ni mita horā eiga de, kyanpu o shite-ita jūdai no ko ga satsujinki ni korosareteta. Kowakatta yo!, I watched a horror movie on Halloween in which teenage campers were being murdered by a serial killer. It was scary!)

As other attacks that have happened near train stations still linger in the public conscious, some people have begun to ask questions about 鉄道の安全対策 (tetsudō no anzen taisaku, safety measures for rail transport) as well as questions about the kind of 警戒対策 (keikai taisaku, preventative measures) being taken.

In 2018, a knife attack on a shinkansen left several passengers injured. As a result, 鉄道会社は利用者の手荷物検査をすることができる (tetsudō gaisha wa riyōsha no tenimotsu kensa o suru koto ga dekiru, railway companies are allowed to conduct baggage checks).

However, balancing this safety measure with 乗客の利便性 (jōkyaku no ribensei, passenger convenience) has made this difficult to put into practice.

A 非常通報装置ボタン (hijō tsūhō sōchi botan, emergency call button) is installed in all train cars, allowing passengers to talk to the 運転手 (untenshu, driver) or the 車掌 (shashō, train conductor), but this is only effective when passengers remain calm. During the Oct. 31 incident, 車内が混乱していて、運転手には状況把握が難しかった (shanai ga konran shite-ite, untenshu ni wa jōkyōha’aku ga muzukashikatta, the inside of the cars was chaotic, so the train operator had a hard time grasping the situation).

In an interview with Tokyo MXTV, railway journalist Jun Umehara commented: 非常事態のときに緊急で開けられるのか今回課題になった。例えば乗務員室側からリモコンでホームドアを操作して開けられるなどの仕組みを導入しなければいけない (Hijō jitai no toki ni kinkyū de akerareru no ka konkai kadai ni natta. Tatoeba jōmuinshitsu-gawa kara rimokon de hōmu doa o sōsa shite akerareru nado no shikumi o dōnyū shinakereba ikenai, The issue this time was whether it would be possible to open the doors in an emergency. For example, a system where the platform doors can be opened by remote control from the crew room may need to be introduced).

In the wake of these attacks, 国土交通省は全国の鉄道事業者に対し巡回の強化、また、警戒監視を徹底するよう注意喚起を行っている (kokudokōtsūshō wa zenkoku no tetsudō jigyōsha ni taishi junkai no kyōka, mata, keikaikanshi o tettei suru yō chūi kanki o okonatte-iru, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism has issued a heads up to railroad corporations nationwide to strengthen their patrols and ensure vigilant monitoring).

The Odakyu Line has announced that it will place 盾と防刃手袋 (tate to bōjin tebukuro, shields and cut-resistant gloves) at every station. Meanwhile, the Keio Line has said that for longer express trains, 警備員を車内に常駐させる (keibīn o shanai ni jōchū saseru, security guards will be stationed onboard).

While it may seem like these sorts of incidents are occurring more and more due to excessive news coverage and sharing on social media, it’s important to remember that Tokyo is still a relatively safe city. Still, it never hurts to remain vigilant.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
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