National / Crime & Legal

Amusement parks scrutinize security following wave-pool slashing at Tokyo Summerland

by Magdalena Osumi

Staff Writer

The slashing incident Sunday at a major amusement park in western Tokyo has caught operators of other major theme parks off guard, prompting concerns that current security might not be enough to prevent similar incidents.

Around noon on Sunday at the large Cobalt Beach wave pool in Tokyo Summerland in the city of Akiruno, nine women aged 18 to 24 sustained minor wounds to their buttocks, abdomens and backs in an apparent attack using a razor blade-like object.

The police, after receiving a report from the amusement park’s security staff at 1:20 p.m., began investigating, but the perpetrator remained at large as of Monday.

The first three slashings took place after an artificial 70-cm-tall wave was generated in the pool, and six other victims reported similar incidents an hour later, following the next wave. Waves are created hourly in the pool and take about three minutes to subside.

The operator decided not to close its facilities but discontinued the waves and conducted underwater searches for the weapon on the pool’s floor. Staff together with police officers also checked the personal belongings of visitors.

“The park was packed and we didn’t broadcast any warning out of concern it might cause a panic or raise the number of victims,” said a spokeswoman over the phone who requested anonymity.

According to the operator, some 13,000 people visited the facility Sunday.

The incident occurred amid beefed-up security in anticipation of the park’s peak season. The spokeswoman said the park has yet to come up with measures to further improve security.

“It’s hard to observe all the bathers,” said a spokeswoman for the operator of Toshimaen, an amusement park with 25 slides and six pools in Nerima Ward, Tokyo.

The spokeswoman, who also asked not to be named, said that despite Toshimaen’s efforts to ensure safety through an increase in the number of guards patrolling the pools during the summer months, none of the existing measures can guarantee safety.

She added that the Tokyo Summerland incident was a wake-up call for considering other measures, such as checking customers’ belongings at the entrance.

“If a similar incident occurred here, in the first place we would close the park” and inform the visitors of the ongoing situation, she added.

Koji Aoki, spokesman for the operator of another major amusement park, Yomiuri Land, agreed that the Summerland operator’s decision “not to inform visitors because it might have caused a panic was a mistake.”

Aoki said that if a similar incident occurred at Yomiuri Land’s facilities, the decision of whether to stop operations would depend on the severity of the situation.

Aoki called Sunday’s incident “rare” but admitted he believes more can be done to ensure safety.

“It would be best to introduce measures enabling us to prevent incidents before they occur, and one way to do so is through pool patrols, which we’ve already been doing, but we might need to beef them up,” he said.

“During special events at pools, which attract crowds, we normally increase the number of lifeguards and security guards to patrol the pool and the surrounding areas closely,” Aoki said.

He explained that Yomiuri Land normally deploys up to 15 security guards and up to 35 lifeguards to observe the bathers in pools and surrounding areas, but that special events are held under stricter supervision.

“Our facilities are different and never get so crowded that we can’t deploy guards to patrol the pool; I think they (the Tokyo Summerland operator) handle it differently,” Aoki said.