YOKOHAMA/KAWASAKI – A mass stabbing around a school bus stop in Kawasaki that claimed the lives of two occurred over a period of less than 20 seconds, investigators said Wednesday.
Seventeen students of Caritas Elementary School, a private Catholic school in the city near Tokyo, and two parents were attacked Tuesday, most while waiting for the school bus.
Police searched the suspect’s home in Kawasaki on Wednesday looking for clues about the attack, in which a schoolgirl and the father of an unharmed pupil were killed.
Wielding knives in both hands, Ryuichi Iwasaki, 51, allegedly carried out the attack before taking his own life from a self-inflicted stab wound to the neck, police said. The entire incident happened over a distance of 50 meters along a street.
Both knives were 30 centimeters long, and investigators found two more knives in a backpack believed to have belonged to the assailant.
The police have confirmed through security camera footage that Iwasaki took a train from Yomiurilandmae Station on the Odakyu Line, the train station nearest his home, and arrived at Noborito Station near the attack site.
He is believed to have then walked to a convenience store, where he left his backpack before starting his rampage, carrying knives in each hand, according to the police.
The cameras installed around the area captured Iwasaki moving rapidly among his victims as he carried out the attack, they said.
Investigators said they believe the suspect began the attack by slashing 39-year-old parent and Foreign Ministry official Satoshi Oyama multiple times before continuing his spree. Oyama was found lying on his back on the street near the convenience store and was later confirmed dead at a hospital.
Iwasaki then seriously wounded the 45-year-old mother of a Caritas student and attacked Hanako Kuribayashi, an 11-year-old sixth-grader from Tama, western Tokyo, who later died, and other children who were forming a line to get on a school bus, according to the police.
The incident occurred at around 7:40 a.m. Tuesday on a street in Kawasaki’s Tama Ward near Noborito Station.
Amid intermittent rain, a number of people offered prayers near the site around the same hour as the attack the previous day, while many flowers, snacks and beverages were left as offerings for the victims.
Hiroko Moriya, a 22-year-old graduate school student, left a bottle of fruit juice, saying she always takes the same train as Caritas students.
“The victimized children may have been the ones I took trains with. I can’t think of it as someone else’s business,” she said as she cried.
Iwasaki lived in a house in Kawasaki’s Asao Ward with an elderly couple believed to be his relatives.
Neighbors of Iwasaki said they had very few dealings with him although one thought he was short-tempered.
Forty minutes before the incident, which ended when he stabbed himself in the neck, Iwasaki said good morning to a female neighbor, a rare and unusual occurrence, she said. He then went in the direction of nearby Yomiurilandmae Station.
The two had a troubling interaction, according to the neighbor, when Iwasaki rang her doorbell early one morning last summer to complain that a branch from her garden that had grown over the sidewalk had hit him in the eye.
Iwasaki is said to have attended local elementary and junior high schools, though few people knew much about him, with one man saying his mother recently mentioned she had seen him for the first time in a long time.
“I can’t believe he would cause such a horrible incident,” said another female neighbor, who added that she had seen him walking a few days ago looking down and carrying some shopping bags.
A newspaper deliveryman said he had initially believed that the only people living at Iwasaki’s home were an elderly couple, but recalled seeing a large amount of youth magazines lined up outside the house three or four months ago on a paper recycling day.