National / Crime & Legal

Driver plows through crowds on Tokyo's Takeshita street, injuring nine

Kyodo, AFP-JIJI

Nine people were injured — one seriously — when a man rammed his car into pedestrians in the early hours of Tuesday on Harajuku’s famed Takeshita Street in what the driver told police was a terrorist act, according to the authorities.

Police arrested Kazuhiro Kusakabe, 21, who was driving a rental car with Osaka license plates, on suspicion of attempted murder. A 19-year-old university student remains unconscious after being hit by the minicar shortly after midnight on the well-known shopping street in Tokyo’s Shibuya Ward, which is normally packed with young shoppers and foreign tourists during daylight hours.

Investigative sources quoted the man as allegedly saying he had perpetrated an act of terrorism “in retaliation for an execution” and “would not make any excuses” for his actions. It was not immediately clear whether he was referring to a specific execution or Japan’s system of capital punishment.

One witness told NHK the scene was “ghastly.”

“I saw some guys collapsed on the street. As I walked closer toward the area, many more people had fallen on the ground. By the time I reached the exact place, paramedics were already there helping people,” he said.

Another witness, who runs a clothing shop in the area, said, “I am shocked that something like this happened on Takeshita Street.”

Kusakabe drove around 140 meters the wrong way on the one-way street, hitting eight men aged between 19 to 51, the police said. The vehicle stopped after crashing into a building.

Another man was slightly injured after Kusakabe allegedly struck him after getting out of the car, the police said.

Kusakabe fled the scene, but police found him in a nearby park about half an hour later.

He purportedly told the police he had driven from Osaka and intended to kill the people he hit. There was a 20-liter tank of kerosene in the rental car, which he said he planned to use to burn the vehicle, the investigative sources said.

The incident took place close to Meiji Shrine shortly after midnight. The street was closed to vehicular traffic at the time as it was expected to be crowded on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.