TOKYO – As mourners, some weeping, piled Japanese comics, flowers and other mementos at the scene of a deadly stabbing rampage, the government Monday sought to impose tighter controls over large knives and provide better security in public places.
News that the attacker had posted Internet messages saying he intended to kill people in the Akihabara district, the heart of Tokyo’s comic book and youth culture, added to the shock as Japan struggled to make sense of the violence, which left seven people dead and 10 wounded.
“It’s unbelievable that things like this are happening in our country,” said 19-year-old Tsutsumo Hirano, who attended high school with one of the victims, paying respects at the makeshift memorial.
Tomohiro Kato, 25, a temporary worker at a factory outside Tokyo, was splattered with blood when he was arrested Sunday during the lunchtime attack in the crowded shopping district.
Police say Kato rammed a rented two-ton truck into a crowd of shoppers, then jumped out and began stabbing victims who had been knocked down before lashing out at others in the crowd.
Three people were killed by the impact of the truck and the four others died of stab wounds, police said.
On Monday, Internet sites and the media carried a series of messages posted on an electronic bulletin board in the hours before the attack.
National broadcaster NHK said Kato posted messages under a thread titled, “I will kill people in Akihabara,” and wrote: “I want to crash the vehicle and, if it becomes useless, I will then use a knife. Goodbye, everyone.”
According to the NHK report, another message was sent from Akihabara by cell phone that read: “It’s time,” just 20 minutes before the truck hit the first pedestrians.
Authorities confirmed that Kato had posted messages, but did not release details.
Kato was transferred from police custody to a holding cell at the Tokyo prosecutors office today. Under Japanese law, a suspect can be held by police for two days and then must be transferred to the custody of prosecutors, who then have 20 days to either file charges or release the suspect.
A police spokesman said Kato has generally been cooperative, though unapologetic, during questioning and has at times broken down into tears. The spokesman requested anonymity because the investigation is ongoing and refused to give further details.
Japanese authorities grappled with possible explanations for the attack, the latest in a string of assaults in recent years. Some speculated that the growing gap between rich and poor was spurring rage among have-nots like Kato; others said Japan has become a lonelier place in recent years.
“The group mentality has given away to individuality in Japan,” said Nobuo Komiya, a criminologist at Rissho University in Tokyo. “This is fine for people who can deal with their problems on their own, but not for those who need someone to talk and listen.”