National

Akihabara marks 10 years since deadly stabbing rampage

Kyodo, JIJI, Staff Report

Tokyo’s Akihabara district, a popular spot for Japanese subcultures, on Friday marked the 10th anniversary of a stabbing rampage that killed seven and injured 10 others.

A stand for flower offerings was set up near the intersection where Tomohiro Kato, a 35-year-old former temporary worker now on death row, mowed down pedestrians in a vehicle-free zone with a truck and randomly stabbed passers-by with a knife on June 8, 2008.

The incident shocked Japan and put the problem of young people’s dissatisfaction with unstable employment back in the spotlight.

It also led to the suspension of Akihabara’s custom of creating pedestrian-only shopping zones by closing its main street, Chuo-dori, to traffic every week on Sundays.

Hiroshi Yuasa, 64, a taxi driver who happened to be at the crime scene and was stabbed in his right side, said, “I’ve been thinking over the 10 years how I can encourage people to give even the slightest thought to the incident.”

Still suffering from the aftereffects of the injury, Yuasa must take painkillers but despite that has been diligent in activities to convey his experience, visiting schools across Japan to give lectures and cooperating in the production of a documentary movie about the incident by university students.

“Young people have much to look forward to,” Yuasa said. “That kind of incident takes away the future of the perpetrator and the victims.”

A 60-year-old man who works nearby offered a bottle of tea and said, “I feel so pained when I think of the victims and their families. The incident should not be forgotten even though 10 years have passed.”

Kato’s death sentence was finalized in February 2015. The Supreme Court said in its ruling that he was motivated by feelings of rage after being harassed on an internet forum in which he had become engrossed.

Kato said he had scouted the location before the rampage and confirmed that it would be packed with people. The Akihabara district, once known mainly as an electronics mecca, is now better known for attracting fans of manga and anime.

A memorial service was also held Friday in Osaka Prefecture for another stabbing rampage, in this case at an elementary school where eight pupils’ lives were claimed 17 years ago.

A man broke into the school in the city of Ikeda on the morning of June 8, 2001, fatally stabbed seven girls and a boy and injured 15 others, including two teachers.

The accident prompted the school to strengthen security measures through steps such as installing security cameras and checking visitors’ IDs.

The attacker, Mamoru Takuma, who was 37 years old at the time, was sentenced to death in 2003 and executed in September 2004.

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