SHIZUOKA – A 32-year-old ammunition collector was arrested Tuesday for allegedly mailing a package containing a live artillery shell that exploded the previous night at a branch of the Yamato Transport Co. parcel delivery firm.
Norihisa Kotani, a sheet-metal worker who lives in the city of Fuji, is believed to have sent several packages containing ammunition, including the one that exploded at the Shinshizuoka branch of Yamato Transport in Susono, Shizuoka Prefecture.
A part-time employee sorting out packages was injured in the explosion.
Kotani had sent the package that exploded to a buyer who had purchased the shell through an Internet auction, police said. The package contained what is believed to be a small shell with the explosive power of a hand grenade, they said.
Kotani said he did not know the shell was live.
According to police, Kotani told investigators that he became interested in artillery shells about 10 years ago and has since been collecting ammunition at drill sites in Shizuoka Prefecture used by the Self-Defense Forces and U.S. military.
He admitted that he recently started selling his collection, police said.
According to police, Kotani sent 11 cardboard boxes containing ammunition, including the one that exploded.
Eight of the other packages were found intact at the Yamato Transport branch office, and two others were intercepted while being carried by a delivery truck on the Tomei Expressway in Kanagawa Prefecture.
The shells in the other packages were not live, according to police.
Aside from posting on Internet auction sites, Kotani was selling U.S. military surplus goods, and police who searched his house found dozens of artillery shells in his yard. At the request of Shizuoka police, an explosives-disposal unit of the Ground Self-Defense Force removed the shells from the house.
Takuya Uchida, 20, was sorting parcels with three coworkers when the package exploded at about 9 p.m. He suffered cuts to his face and legs, but the injuries are not life-threatening, police said.
The force of the blast caused shrapnel to scatter in a 10-meter radius and damaged a duct, but there appears to be no other damage to the building, police said.
A GSDF official said he believes the shell that exploded was not one used by the SDF and was probably a 40mm round used by the U.S.
Yamato Transport officials said the company was operating around the clock with additional part-time workers to meet the summer gift rush.
The company halted all operations at the Shinshizuoka branch.
Yamato Transport said it is difficult to screen all 2 million to 3 million parcels the carrier handles every day.
The GSDF sent a bomb-disposal squad to the scene at the request of police.
The office is located at the foot of Mount Fuji, about 2 km west of the Susono interchange on the Tomei Expressway.
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