On Sunday October 31, a man dressed in a Joker costume stabbed passengers riding a train in Tokyo, injuring 17, reports NHK World-Japan.
The premeditated attack was carried out by 24-year-old Kyota Hattori who, after physically assaulting several people, set fire to the Keio train car. Witnesses, according to the Associated Press, recalled a man entering the train donning a brightly colored suit modeled after the Batman movie franchise’s villain, The Joker. This did not seem particularly suspicious to anyone at the time, as most passengers were wearing costumes in preparation for Halloween celebrations.
The attacker reportedly used cigarette lighter fluid to start the fire, burning seats inside the train. According to Reuters, the first person to be stabbed was an elderly man who is currently in critical condition. The other 16 confirmed victims suffered minor injuries, mostly resulting from smoke inhalation.
The train, headed to the Tokyo Shinjuku station, made an emergency stop upon the onset of the attack. Many of the other passengers managed to escape amidst the chaos by climbing out of the train windows and onto the platform, reported Al Jazeera. Much of the attack and its aftermath were caught on film by bystanders, with numerous videos and pictures going viral on social media.
Hattori was arrested at the scene and complied with police orders, says NHK. His motive, as reported by The Japan Times, was to receive the death penalty in court. To accomplish this goal, the attacker hoped to murder at least 2 individuals, as Japanese law requires a charge of multiple homicides to enact capital punishment. The report from Reuters disclosed that Hattori’s life prior to the incident had been on a steep decline, characterized by deteriorating relationships with friends and discontent with his work, leading him to formulate an attack plan.
Public transportation is a frequent target of violent attacks in urban areas around the world. The assailant told investigators he specifically chose the Keio Line train due to the high density of people and the difficulty of escape.
This incident is one of the multiple knife attacks that have taken place in Japan in recent years. A report from the Associated Press details several like occurrences, one of which the attacker cited as an inspiration for his plan. Three months prior to the Halloween stabbing, a man wielding a knife assaulted 10 people on an Odakyu Electric Railway train. According to NPR, the 36-year-old suspect in that incident was apprehended immediately, telling police that he attacked any woman who looked happy. Other similar knife attacks in the country took place in 2019, 2018, and 2016, all of which resulted in casualties. The propensity of assailants to use knives can largely be attributed to Japan’s stringent gun control laws.
These attacks emphasize the necessity of tighter weaponry regulations in highly populated public areas. Cities across the globe have fallen victim to mass terrorist and other violent attacks targeted on densely packed areas such as supermarkets, shopping malls, and public transportation.