• KYODO, REUTERS

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Two high school students and a man were wounded in a knife attack on Saturday just outside the University of Tokyo ahead of nationwide entrance exams. A teenager who was apparently frustrated with his academic performance has been arrested on suspicion of attempted murder, police said.

A 72-year-old man from Tokyo was seriously injured after he and the two other victims — a male and a female student, ages 17 and 18 respectively — were slashed in the back around 8:30 a.m. outside one of the gates to the university's main campus in the capital's Bunkyo Ward.

The two high school students, both from Chiba Prefecture, did not sustain life-threatening injuries, the police said, with authorities quoting the 17-year-old suspect as saying he was not acquainted with the three.

The suspect, a student at a private high school in Nagoya, was not taking the exam. He was arrested at the scene on suspicion of attempted murder and has admitted to the attack.

"I don't know (the victims). I was not doing well in my studies so I wanted to cause an incident and die," he was quoted as saying.

"I was studying for the University of Tokyo to become a doctor, but my grades have been poor for a year and I lost confidence," the teenager said, according to police.

"If I could not become a doctor, I thought I'd kill someone and carry a guilty feeling while committing seppuku."

The attacker has told the police he came to Tokyo via an express bus that arrived Saturday morning, an investigative source said, adding that his father notified local police on Friday night that the son was missing.

The suspect, whose name has been withheld as he is a minor, also said he had brought a knife from his home. A bloodstained kitchen knife was found at the scene.

People taking Japan's unified university entrance exams line up outside Tokyo University on Saturday morning. | KYODO
People taking Japan’s unified university entrance exams line up outside Tokyo University on Saturday morning. | KYODO

When police officers arrived at the scene shortly after the incident, the alleged attacker was sitting on the ground, and his knife, with a 12-centimeter blade, had been confiscated by a security guard, they said.

The police said the bag he had included plastic and glass bottles containing combustible liquid, adding he also had a folding saw and another knife.

The incident occurred as two-day unified university entrance exams began nationwide. Despite the incident, the University of Tokyo, which was one of over 600 exam venues, conducted the first day of the exams as scheduled.

The quick arrest was possible because the 72-year-old man rushed to a nearby police box, they said.

The suspect was also quoted by police as saying he started a fire at a station near the campus before the incident.

The Tokyo Fire Department said it was alerted to a fire within the premises of Todaimae Station on the Namboku Line operated by Tokyo Metro Co. at around 8:30 a.m. and that it was extinguished around an hour later.

The incident appeared to unsettle some test-takers at the venue, to which police and firefighting vehicles were mobilized. The stabbings occurred outside the gate of the Yayoi section of the main campus of the university, one of the most prestigious schools in the country.

An 18-year-old test-taker said he learned about the incident via Twitter. "It has become a big incident and it's scary. I want to do my best in the test and not be affected," he added.

Police officers probe the site of a stabbing near an entrance gate to Tokyo University on Saturday morning. | REUTERS
Police officers probe the site of a stabbing near an entrance gate to Tokyo University on Saturday morning. | REUTERS

Another test-taker, an 18-year-old high school student from Tokyo, expressed her anxiety over the incident at a time when people are already feeling jittery about the coronavirus.

A woman in her 50s who accompanied her son to the exam venue said she hopes her son will not be shaken by the incident. "He studied so hard (for this) so I wanted him to be able to take the test in a good environment," she said.

In light of Saturday's incident, the National Center for University Entrance Examinations urged the national, public and private universities that are hosting exams to beef up security measures.

The exams, conducted as a wave of COVID-19 surges across the country, drew a total of 530,367 applicants and are taking place at 677 venues.

Standardized university entrance exams are held annually in two stages, with the first standardized for all universities and the second involving university-specific exams.

Violent crimes are exceedingly rare in Japan, but there have been a spate of recent knife attacks by assailants unknown to the victims.

In October, a man dressed in a costume of the Batman villain Joker stabbed more than a dozen people on a train in Tokyo, sending passengers screaming down the aisles and scrambling out of windows to escape. A few months earlier, a man wounded several people in a knife attack on a Tokyo commuter train.

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