TOKYO: Japanese police on Wednesday searched the home of the man behind a stabbing rampage in the town of Kawasaki a day earlier that killed two people, including a child.
The 51-year-old attacker, identified by police as Ryuichi Iwasaki, died after stabbing himself after the rampage, and his motives for the horrifying assault remain unclear.
On Wednesday police searched his home, not far from the scene of the morning attack, seizing unspecified material, public broadcaster NHK reported.
Local media said Iwasaki was living with relatives in their 80s, but gave no further details. His occupation was unknown.
Police had no comment on the investigation and declined to offer any further details about the attacker.
The rampage in the town south of Tokyo on Tuesday morning killed two people – 11-year-old schoolgirl Hanako Kuribayashi and a 39-year-old parent identified as government official Satoshi Oyama, a Myanmar specialist.
Seventeen more people, mainly young children, were injured, according to authorities.
Iwasaki crept up silently behind pupils of the Caritas school as they waited for a bus and began slashing randomly at them with knives held in both hands before fatally stabbing himself in the neck.
Local media, citing police sources, said Wednesday that the attack took less than 20 seconds to unfold and that two additional knives were discovered inside the attacker’s backpack, which he had left at a nearby convenience store.
Motive still unclear
Limited details emerged late Wednesday about the attacker, although his motive remained unclear.
NHK, citing local officials, said the suspect had been living with his uncle and aunt and that they and other relatives had consulted with Kawasaki city officials 14 times between November 2017 and January 2019 over their concerns about Iwasaki.
They told local officials that he had not held a job for a long time and had “hikikomori tendencies,” using a term in Japanese for people who shut themselves off from the outside world, often for years.
But his relatives subsequently told the city to hold off contacting Iwasaki, officials said.
Neighbours said they had little interaction with the middle-aged man.
A female neighbour told Kyodo news agency that Iwasaki had said good morning to her 40 minutes before carrying out the attack, an interaction she described as unusual.
The news agency said Iwasaki was believed to have gone to local schools as a child, but there was no confirmation.
A man who identified himself as having taught Iwasaki in junior high school – when the suspect was around 14 – told NHK he was “not the kind of child who stands out”.
“He and his friends would shove each other playfully, but he didn’t attack anyone violently,” the teacher said.
In the wake of the attack, Japan’s government said it would review measures to ensure the safety of children travelling to and from school.
Japan has one of the lowest rates of violent crime in the developed world, and it is common for even young children to take public transport alone to and from school.
“The whole government will work in unison to ensure the children’s safety,” government spokesman Yoshihide Suga told reporters after a ministerial meeting on the issue.
The attack shocked Japan, where violent crime is vanishingly rare, in part because of strict regulations on gun ownership.
On Wednesday morning, people were still arriving at the scene of the attack to lay flowers and other tributes to those killed.
Mourners in Japan sometimes bring drinks or food that the deceased enjoyed to their gravesites, and bottles of soda and juice could be seen Wednesday at the scene of the attack.
The school will be closed for the rest of the week, and officials said on Tuesday that they would offer students mental health support after the attack.