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2 Killed During Stabbing Attack In Japan


It was just before 8 o'clock in the morning in a quiet residential neighborhood outside of Tokyo. A group of schoolchildren was waiting for a bus when a man armed with a knife in each hand attacked them. Two people died, including an 11-year-old girl. More than a dozen other people were injured. NPR's Anthony Kuhn has been following this story. He's on the line with me now from outside of the school the children attended. Hi, Anthony.


KING: I know that you just got a briefing this morning. What do we know about this attack?

KUHN: Yeah. I'm right outside the school. We just came out of a briefing with school officials, and there was a schoolteacher with the kids as they were lining up in the morning. And he said that the attacker came from behind the kids as they were lining up, and that's why they didn't really have time to flee. We know that one of the fatalities, an 11-year-old girl, is a sixth - and a sixth-grader. And another fatality was apparently a parent, a man in his 30s, who was an employee of Japan's Foreign Ministry.

KING: Anthony, do we know anything about the attacker's motivation, or is it just too early?

KUHN: Well, the attacker came with a knife in each hand. And after the attack, he turned the knives on himself. And police detained him, but he died. So what we heard at the briefing at the school is that nobody knows who this man is. There is no known connection that he has to the school. And nobody has any idea why he did this. No clear motivation.

KING: So a lot of questions yet to be answered. And as we said, you are in a town outside of Tokyo. Is violence common in this region, especially this kind of violence?

KUHN: No. It's most uncommon. It's unthinkable in a region like this. This is a city called Kawasaki on the outskirts of Tokyo. It's a little bit less than an hour from the city center by train ride. And people live here because it's cheaper than the city center. There are students. There are factories out here. It's an incredibly quiet and peaceful residential neighborhood. And Japan, Tokyo, are extremely safe and quiet places to live, for the most part. There is very little violent crime. Guns are very, very few here.

And so this kind of murder is really unthinkable. And clearly, just hearing the emotion in the voices of the teachers and the school authorities who spoke to us, people are clearly very shaken by this incident.

KING: Given how unusual this kind of violence is, how are people in this area responding? What are they saying and doing?

KUHN: Well, as I was waiting to get into the school, parents started filing in. And they were all dressed in dark suits and dresses, and you could hear their feet clicking on the sidewalk. And people's faces were very tense, and they had to run, go through a big crowd of journalists to get there. So it's a very difficult moment for people here. Obviously, not a lot of people want to talk about it. I did speak to a resident here and there, and they just found this really unimaginable for such a quiet place.

KING: Such a tragedy. NPR's Anthony Kuhn in Japan. Anthony, thank you.

KUHN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Anthony Kuhn is NPR's correspondent based in Seoul, South Korea, reporting on the Korean Peninsula, Japan, and the great diversity of Asia's countries and cultures. Before moving to Seoul in 2018, he traveled to the region to cover major stories including the North Korean nuclear crisis and the Fukushima earthquake and nuclear disaster.