Akihabara massacre

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Akihabara massacre
Akihabara massacre 02.JPG
The crossing in Akihabara where the incident happened
Location Chiyoda, Tokyo, Japan
Coordinates 35°41′59″N 139°46′17″E / 35.69972°N 139.77139°E / 35.69972; 139.77139
Date June 8, 2008
12:33-12:36 (JST)
Attack type
Mass murder, stabbing
Weapons Truck, dagger
Deaths 7
Non-fatal injuries
10
Perpetrator Tomohiro Katō

The Akihabara massacre (秋葉原通り魔事件 Akihabara Tōrima Jiken?, lit. "Akihabara random attacker incident") was an incident of mass murder that took place on Sunday, June 8, 2008, in the Akihabara shopping quarter for electronics, video games, manga and anime in Sotokanda, Chiyoda, Tokyo, Japan.

At 12:33. JST, a man drove into a crowd with a truck, eventually killing three people and injuring two; he then stabbed at least 12 people using a dagger (initially reported as a survival knife[1]), killing four people and injuring eight.[2][3][4][5]

Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department arrested Tomohiro Katō (加藤 智大 Katō Tomohiro?), 25, on suspicion of attempted murder.[4][5] The suspect, dressed then in a black T-shirt with a jacket and off-white trousers,[6] was a resident of Susono, Shizuoka.[4][7] He was held at the Manseibashi Police Station.[8] Two days later on June 10, he was sent to the Tokyo District Public Prosecutor's Office.[4][7] He was later re-arrested by the police on June 20 on suspicion of murder.[5][9][10] Kato was sentenced to death by the Tokyo District Court in 2011, and the sentence was upheld on appeal in 2012.[11] As of June 8, 2014, he remains alive on death row.

Details[edit]

The rented truck used to run into the crowd
Makeshift memorial set up at Akihabara for mourning

The incident[edit]

Katō drove a two-ton rented truck into a crowd at the crossing of Kanda Myōjin-dōri and Chūō-dōri streets in Akihabara.[1][12] While Kanda Myōjin-dōri was open to traffic, Chūō-dōri was closed to vehicular traffic for the convenience of shopping pedestrians,[1] a practice observed every Sunday and during holidays.[13] Police concluded it was at 12:33 when he hit five people with the truck,[14][15] after ignoring a red light earlier that morning.[14] As some people gathered to care for the victims,[16] he then left the truck and stabbed at least 12 people, according to a witness, while screaming.[17][18] Police chased him and cornered him in a narrow alley, and a police officer pointed a gun at him; he dropped his knife and was held down by the police at 12:35 about 170 meters (600 ft) away from the truck.[1][14]

The victims[edit]

At least 17 ambulances rushed to the scene as passersby tried to revive the victims. Five of the victims reportedly went into cardiac arrest at the scene.[19] It was initially reported two people died from the attack, and during the day the death toll increased to seven. Later it was determined through autopsies that three victims died as a result of being hit by the truck while the other four were fatally stabbed.[20]

According to police and hospital officials, six of the seven who were killed were men, including Kazunori Fujino and his friend Takahiro Kamaguchi (both 19), Katsuhiko Nakamura (74), Naoki Miyamoto (31), Mitsuru Matsui (33), and Kasuhiro Koiwa (47). A woman, Mai Mutō (21), was also killed.[21] Communication records showed that Mutō probably made an emergency call to police from her mobile phone, though she left no message.[22] Later that day, a makeshift memorial was created by passersby.[23][24]

Perpetrator[edit]

Early life and education[edit]

Tomohiro Katō (加藤智大 Katō Tomohiro?) (born September 28, 1982) grew up in a suburban home in Aomori, Honshu.[25] His father was a top manager in a financial institution. Katō's grades were considered to be exceptional in elementary school and he was a top track athlete.[25] He entered Tsukuda Junior High School[26] and became president of the tennis club in middle school. He started to act violently at home after enrolling at Aomori Prefectural Aomori High School, an elite high school.[27][28] Katō was unpopular with his classmates and his class academic ranking fell to 300 (of 360 students). He failed entrance examinations for the prestigious Hokkaido University, eventually training as an auto mechanic at Nakanihon Automotive College.[25] He was hired as a temporary worker at an auto parts factory in central Shizuoka Prefecture, though he had been recently told that his job was to be cut at the end of June.[28]

Katō reportedly did not get along well with his parents, and seldom returned home.[29][30] An interview with Katō's brother revealed that his parents had put immense pressure on them to perform and to excel in their studies,[29] ordering them to redo their homework to high standards in order to impress teachers in school, and recalled one incident when Katō was made to eat scraps of food from the floor.[30] Another neighbour described Katō being punished by his parents, who made him stand outside for hours in deep cold during winter.[25] Previous online postings before his announcement of the attack contained sharp criticisms of his own upbringing.[31] Deeply in debt and believing that his family had given up on him, Katō unsuccessfully attempted suicide in 2006 by ramming his car into a wall.[25]

Motivations[edit]

Three days before the attack, on June 5, Katō accused people at his workplace of hiding his work clothes, and left work immediately afterwards. Apparently he believed at this point he was going to lose his job, though this was not actually the case.[26][32][33] This may have triggered the attack.[34]

The suspect apparently posted messages from his mobile phone to a Web site "Extreme Exchange, Revised",[35][36] revealing his intentions through his final message via his mobile phone 20 minutes before the attack.[37] A police official stated the first message read, "I will kill people in Akihabara." Other messages he is alleged to have posted include, "If only I had a girlfriend, I wouldn't have quit work," "I would never have become addicted to my mobile phone. Anybody with hope couldn't possibly understand how I feel,"[38] and "I don't have a single friend and I won't in the future. I'll be ignored because I'm ugly. I'm lower than trash because at least the trash gets recycled."[28] It also referred to "a stabbing spree in Tsuchiura."[39] Commentators referred to the incident, based on the messages, as another case of the phenomenon of Hikikomori or Internet suicide.[40][41][42] Later messages revealed his plan to use a vehicle until it became inoperable, and then to use a knife to continue the attack on foot.[43][44] He waited for Chūō-dōri to close at noon to vehicular traffic before commencing the attack.[45][46]

Investigation[edit]

The 35-year practice of closing Chūō-dōri avenue to vehicular traffic on Sundays and holiday afternoons was discontinued after the attack. The Japanese text on the sign translates in English to "Pedestrian precinct shall be discontinued for the time being from June 15." [13]

The suspect Katō was arrested for attempted murder after a police officer spotted him stabbing a woman.[5] On June 10 the police sent him to Tokyo District Prosecutor's Office.[4][7] On June 20 the police arrested him again on suspicion of murder[5] of the seven victims.[9] On the same day the Prosecutor's Office withheld action on him for the first suspicion.[47] While being positive about his capacity to be held criminally liable,[9] the Prosecutor's Office decided by June 20 to demand that his detention for a psychiatric test be authorized by the Tokyo District Court.[9][47]

Katō was cooperative during the inquiry but unapologetic, and cried at times. Police seized from his apartment the empty knife packages, their receipts, and one club.

Katō erased all contacts and communication records from his mobile phone just prior to the attack, the purpose of which he confessed was to avoid annoying those around him.[46] Katō later said that he posted the online messages hoping that police would take notice and stop him.[48]

The knives were reportedly purchased two days before the attack from a military supply shop in Fukui at about 12:40 p.m.[28] Katō spent about 20 minutes in the store, purchasing a telescopic baton and a pair of leather gloves while the store closed-circuit television captured him talking to and laughing with the salesman and demonstrating stabbing motions.[49][50] Katō came to Akihabara a day before the attack to sell his personal computer and some software to raise money to rent the truck.[50][51]

Reactions and consequences[edit]

The attack made global headlines and sent shock waves across Japan,[52] shaking public confidence in what is traditionally considered a society safe from violent crime.[53] The Government of Japan is now reviewing laws regulating knives.[54][55][56] The Tokyo Metropolitan Public Safety Commission announced that the 35-year old practice of closing Chūō-dōri on Sundays and holidays was to be suspended until safety measures were reviewed.[13] Katō's parents gave an apology to the victims in a television interview.[57]

The practice of closing the streets of Akihabara on Sundays and holidays, known as "pedestrian heaven", was discontinued until January 2011. When the "pedestrian heaven" was reopened new rules were put in place, such as a strict prohibition on standing in the street or dancing. The former practice of using the street for cosplay on Sundays is now limited to small, constantly moving parades down the middle of the street.

Konami canceled three launch events of Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots in Tokyo, with the "safety of participants in mind" as a result of the attack.[58][59]

The massacre also sparked many conversations in Japanese blogs when it was discovered that two Ustream users had broadcast live video streams of the tragedy, attracting a viewership estimated at between 1000 and 3000 people. No known recording has been saved of the videos, although the event has been written about in many Japanese blogs and online IT magazines.[60][61]

The Super Sentai series at the time of the attack, Engine Sentai Go-onger (2008) featured transforming daggers as part of the heroes' standard personal sidearms, called Switch Funshaken Rocket Dagger(s) (in reference to their rocket-shaped themes). After the attack, which occurred the day immediately after the Rocket Daggers made their debut in the series, both Bandai, the company that makes the toy versions of the weapons, and Toei, the company that produces the TV series, changed their names to "Switch Funshaken Rocket Booster(s)" and re-designated them as "swords" rather than "daggers" out of respect for the victims of the attack, and to lessen any trauma in the 6-8-year-old audience that the tokusatsu franchise regularly targets.[62]

Toei animation's One Piece was edited in TV broadcast the following week, as one of the main characters was stabbed in the back with a knife.

On 17 June 2008, convicted child serial murderer Tsutomu Miyazaki was executed by hanging, which was suspected to be a reaction to Katō's massacre.[63][64]

The media labeled the attacks as a growing epidemic of "kireru" (キレる?), acts of rage committed by Tokyo's alienated youth; others labeled the otaku culture as the answer for its negative stereotype of compulsive, antisocial behavior.[65]

In April 2014, Kato's 28-year-old brother committed suicide, alleging he did it because of the scars and shame the massacre caused upon him.[66]

Conviction[edit]

On March 24, 2011, Kato was sentenced to death by Tokyo District Court after finding him fully responsible for the attack. After appealing, Tokyo High Court maintained Kato's death penalty on September 12, 2012.[67][68] Kato has expressed remorse over the massacre stating that he "would like to apologize to those who passed away, the injured and their families". Upon entering a guilty plea, he said he "knew he was the culprit though [he] had no memory of some parts of the incident".[69]

Related or similar events[edit]

The stabbings occurred exactly seven years after the Osaka school massacre, where eight elementary school students were killed.[3][70] In 2008, there had also been another random knife killing by Masahiro Kanagawa,[71] though on a smaller scale. Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, who visited the site a week after the massacre to offer prayer to the victims,[72] said that he "is worried that similar cases occur about 10 times a year in Japan."[32][73] According to the National Police Agency, 67 similar random attacks have taken place between 1998 and 2007.[53] It was reported that Katō's massacre was "the worst case of its kind" since World War II "in terms of the number of deaths."[32][74][75]

A few days after the attack, police arrested several people who stated their intention to make copycat killings elsewhere in Japan,[76][77][78][79][80][81] including one case who made his intentions known to popular message board 2channel.[82][83] On June 22 three women were injured by a female attacker at Ōsaka Station;[84] a 38-year-old woman later confessed to attacking two of the victims with a razor.[85] A 19-year-old man who made an Internet threat to go on a June 15 stabbing spree at Tokyo Disney Resort was arrested by police.[86] Between June 8 and June 23, 12 people were arrested, and five people warned, for making threatening messages. The 17 people involved in the threats ranged from 13 to 30 years old.[87] On 26 June 2008, police overpowered and arrested a man who was found to have a knife in his possession in Akihabara.[88]

See also[edit]

Wikinews-logo.svg News related to Man attacks people, kills 7 in Akihabara, Tokyo at Wikinews.


References[edit]

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