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Seven killed as knifeman goes on rampage in Tokyo

By David McNeill in Tokyo
Monday, 9 June 2008



25-year-old Tomohiro Kato is detained by police officers in Tokyo's Akihabara district yesterday after killing seven people and injuring 10

Seven people have been killed and 10 injured in central Tokyo by a "hysterical" man who ploughed a van into a crowd of shoppers saying he was "tired of life" and began slashing people with a hunting knife.

The man, identified by police as Tomohiro Kato, 25, mowed down three people at a busy intersection in Akihabara, a shopping and entertainment district, before leaping from his rented van and stabbing at least 15 victims in the apparently premeditated attack.

Witnesses said Kato was screaming hysterically during his five-minute rampage. "It was chaos," one man told the state broadcaster NHK. "He was just stabbing people at random as he walked toward Akihabara station." Others said Kato jumped on top one of his victims and stabbed him "many times" before moving down a crowded main street. Umbrellas, shoes and bloody towels littered the intersection after the attack. Television showed pictures of an ambulance crew trying to revive victims in the street.

The victims include a secondary school student, a policeman stabbed in the back as he went to someone's aid, and 74-year-old Katsuhiro Nakamura, whose wife said he had gone to buy a computer game. "He was in such a good mood before he left," she said.

A spokesman for Tokyo police, Jiro Akaogi, told Japanese media last night that Kato had gone to Akihabara to kill people and didn't care who. "He said he was tired of life. He said he was sick of everything," he added. Pictures taken with mobile-phone cameras showed police wrestling Kato to the ground, after witnesses said they threatened to shoot him.

Kato, a car engineer who worked in Shizuoka, about 100 miles south-west of Tokyo, his company on Friday he was taking a couple of days off, hired the van and drove to Tokyo.

Akihabara caters to the country's otaku: geeks who obsessively pursue a single hobby such as collecting anime characters, video games and toys. It may not be a coincidence that Kato chose this area for his attack. Academics say the otaku phenomenon is fuelled by growing insecurity about traditional male roles in a country that is rapidly shedding lifetime employment and the nuclear family.

It is the latest and deadliest in a string of indiscriminate attacks in Japan – 67 in the past decade and increasing in frequency since the start of this year. Most of the assaults involve knife-wielding loners. "If you look at the profile of the men, they are often men in part-time or insecure work," said Kaori Katada, a sociologist at Tokyo Metropolitan University. "These men feel excluded from society and they explode in pent-up rage."

In January, a 16-year-old boy carrying a pair of kitchen knives slashed his way through a crowded Tokyo street, badly injuring two people.

"I wanted to kill everybody. I did not care who they were," he told police afterwards.

In March, Masahiro Kanagawa, 24, went on a stabbing spree at a rural railway station that left one person dead and seven wounded.

Yesterday's attack happened on the anniversary of an attack on 8 June 2001, in which Mamoru Takuma stabbed to death eight children at a primary school in Osaka.

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