The site of a deadly attack on school children in Japan’s Kawasaki City on Tuesday. Photo: Yomiuri Shimbun

A Japan basking in the warm glow of US President Donald Trump’s feel-good state visit was left reeling today after a man embarked on a murderous stabbing spree in the city of Kawasaki that left two dead and over a dozen injured.

While the numbers and medical status of the victims are still preliminary, the culprit, an apparently deranged male in his fifties, injured 16 people, many of them elementary school children, this morning. He also killed one adult and a young girl, before taking his own life near the scene of the crime.

Japan is a nation of over 122 million people in which usually fewer than 10 deaths per year related to firearms are recorded. However his case – and a wide number of previous, similar cases – prove that a man with a knife can inflict terrible damage upon unarmed children. In the immediate aftermath of the incident, school security is once again being hotly debated in Japan.

Attack at school bus stop

The scene of the crime was a quiet residential area about 250 meters northwest of Noborito Station in Kawasaki City, Kanagawa Prefecture. It took place at 7:45 am while elementary school children were waiting to board a school bus.

A man in his fifties approached the group, holding knives in both hands, and started slashing and stabbing. Early reports from the Kanagawa Police and Fire Department state that in the resulting carnage, 16 children, one man and one women were hospitalized with injuries. Among them, an 11-year-old girl and a 39-year-old man later died.

The suspect is a resident of Kawasaki City. Police say the man was somehow stabbed in the back and was reportedly the parent of one of the children at the scene. He was caught near the scene of the crime but stabbed himself in the neck. He lost massive amounts of blood and was unconscious when police found him. He was later declared dead at the hospital.

Two knives were found at the scene. Police are expected to posthumously charge the individual with murder.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took a break from discussions with Trump and tasked the Japanese government with taking emergency measures to protect children commuting to and from school. Abe reportedly summoned Minister of Education Masahiko Shibayama and high-ranking police authorities to the prime minister’s office on Tuesday to discuss the assault.

“I’m outraged that the attacker targeted young children.” Abe later told reporters. He also offered condolences to the victims’ families and expressed his wishes that the injured recover quickly.

No guns, but…

But today’s horror is not the first time a criminal with a knife has gone one a killing spree. And it is not the first time that his victims were defenseless school children.

In a notable case on June 8, 2001, Mamoru Takuma, aged 37, burst into the Ikeda Elementary in Osaka Prefecture, stabbing eight children to death and injuring 15 other people. He stabbed his victims at random. Takuma was convicted on multiple accounts of murder and executed in 2004.

Hajime Sakai, 54, and his wife Chie, 55, who lost their 7-year old daughter, Maki, in the Ikeda Elementary school massacre, have crusaded for several years to improve school security.

With guns difficult to obtain in Japan, knives are often the only available weapon for homicidal criminals, but for determined or disturbed persons, anything can be used as a weapon.

On June 8, 2008, a disgruntled temporary worker, Tomohiro Kato, drove a vehicle into a crowd in Akihabara – Tokyo’s electronics and anime mecca – mowing down pedestrians and then finishing off some survivors with a knife. He killed seven people and injured 10.

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