YOKOHAMA – An elementary school whose students were attacked in a deadly knife rampage last week in Kawasaki reopened Wednesday, with teachers and security guards keeping a lookout for pupils as they traveled to and from the school.
Following the May 28 attack on children waiting for a school bus to Caritas Elementary School, the bus stop has been moved to a new location. Chartered public buses are now being used instead of vehicles carrying the name of the institution.
Some parents, meanwhile, drove their children to the private Catholic school in the wake of the incident, in which a man fatally stabbed two people and injured 18 others before taking his own life.
At the bus stop, which was heavily guarded by school officials, security officers and police, some students appeared delighted to be reunited with their friends. Some parents waved their children goodbye as a bus left for the school, while others got on the vehicle with the children in order to see them off at the school gates.
The school operator said it has allowed students to wear normal clothes instead of uniforms, and has permitted parents to drop off and pick up their children following the attack.
“We were worried about how the children would feel, but they didn’t seem to be too distressed, which is a relief,” said Hiroaki Takamatsu, the head of the school’s secretariat.
On Tuesday, Takamatsu said that following a meeting held for parents the school “will make maximum efforts to provide mental care and secure safety” for students.
At the meeting, school officials reportedly explained to parents that the school will charter the public buses to collect students at a different location so that they will not recall the incident. The school also said that a mental health counselor will be stationed at the institution everyday.
The attack site continued to draw crowds more than a week later. A female junior high school student on her way to school presented a hymn and a letter as she prayed at the scene.
“I find it difficult to send my own words, so decided to leave this hymn instead,” she wrote in the letter.
Mourner Kenji Mimura, 44, said, “It was a shame that their lives were taken before they could fulfill their ambitions.”
Hanako Kuribayashi, an 11-year-old Caritas Elementary School student, and Satoshi Oyama, a 39-year-old Foreign Ministry official and the father of another girl who attends the school, were killed in the incident. The attacker, 51-year-old Ryuichi Iwasaki, died of a self-inflicted stab wound to the neck shortly after the rampage.
Police believe the attack was premeditated as Iwasaki had purchased knives months in advance. A man believed to be Iwasaki was also seen visiting the area four days before the attack. His motive remains unknown.