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Society's notion of safety shaken to its core

A traffic-free street packed with shoppers and pedestrians on an early Sunday afternoon descended instantly into a disaster zone.

A 25-year-old male temporary worker plowed into a crowd with a truck before attacking one person after another with a double-edged survival knife. This indiscriminate stabbing frenzy in Tokyo's electronics shopping district of Akihabara left seven people dead and 10 injured.

Among the victims were two male university students who went to Akihabara with two other friends to see a movie, and a former dentist who visited the district with his eldest son to buy personal computer-related items. Who, including the families of the victims, would have predicted that such an attack would occur?

Police quoted the man, who was arrested on suspicion of murder, as saying: "I visited Akihabara to kill whoever I could," and "I got sick of the world. I'm tired of living." These words are so mean and selfish.


When did things go wrong?

The attacker, who was born in Aomori, did well at primary and middle school and advanced to a prestigious high school in Aomori Prefecture known for its good record in sending a large number of graduates to top-notch colleges and universities every year.

At what point and why did he develop this streak of brutality? We hope that the police will fully clarify his motives and uncover the details of the background leading up to the attack.

A 24-year-old man who killed one person and injured seven in knife attacks in March at JR Arakawaoki Station in Tsuchiura, Ibaraki Prefecture, was quoted as telling investigators: "I wanted to kill whoever I could," and "I'll be able to get a death sentence if I kill more than one person."

In another stabbing rampage, a male student of a private high school attacked five passersby with kitchen knives on a shopping street in Shinagawa Ward, Tokyo, in January. The Tokyo Family Court said in its decision to put him on probation that he had come to the conclusion he had no choice but to murder someone or kill himself.


Growing trend alarming

Their confessions signify an attempt to satisfy their catastrophic desire by sucking others into their conduct. Does this indicate there has been an increasing number of immature people among our younger generations who are failing to adapt themselves to society?

There is no way to protect ourselves if we are stuck in a crowd and someone suddenly starts wielding a deadly weapon. The Tsuchiura case also took place on a Sunday. In light of these events, some people may now find it difficult to enjoy strolling around busy shopping and entertainment districts.

It is as if the safety rug of society is being pulled away from under our feet.

Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda has directed National Public Safety Commission Chairman Shinya Izumi to look into the social background underlying these kinds of incidents and take any necessary measures. Are there problems in the nation's homes and schools that could be causing these attacks? It is a matter of urgent necessity to probe the possible causes.

About seven hours before his deadly attack, the suspect in the Akihabara case posted a message on a mobile phone Web site that said, "I'm going to kill people in Akihabara."

It would be possible to deal with some of these cases if the sources of messages such as this one could be quickly identified. But in reality, police have to get a warrant from a court to allow them to search or seize the records of site operators or ask them to identify the sources of messages. Discussions should take place with a view to creating a new system that enables police to obtain information quickly and crack down on crimes for which there is advance warning.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 10, 2008)

(Jun. 10, 2008)
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