The suspect in Sunday's stabbing rampage in central Tokyo posted a series of online messages on his cell phone about his plan, according to authorities.
The 25-year-old suspect, Tomohiro Kato, rented a 2-ton truck from near his home in Shizuoka prefecture, 120 miles west of Tokyo. Kato, a temporary employee at an auto factory, gave a blow-by-blow description of his plan before and during his almost four-hour ride to Tokyo.
5:21AM Subject: I will kill people in Akihabara. "I will drive into a crowd of people. I will use a knife if the truck becomes unusable."
07:30AM Subject: It is raining hard. "My plans should be perfect."
10:53AM Subject: It is bumper to bumper traffic. "I hope this does not disrupt my plan."
11:45AM: Subject: I have reached Akihabara. "It looks like the streets are open to pedestrians today."
Kato posted his final messages 20 minutes before the killing, investigators said.
00:10PM Subject: The time has come.
Soon after he posted the message, Kato drove into a crowded street in Akihabara -- a neighborhood known as Tokyo's "electric town," as it's packed with stores that sell electric appliances, computers, games and videos. The major street in the area is usually blocked off for pedestrians on Sundays, and police believe that is why Akihabara became Kato's choice as a killing field.
After he ran over a few pedestrians in the truck, Kato got out of the vehicle, took a survival knife and started to stab people. A few witnesses told Japanese TV stations that Kato shouted, grunted and lifted his arms wide open like airplane wings as he ran toward people with a knife in hand. There was a report that Kato hid a second knife in his pocket, and police found a few more knives in his truck.
Seven people died and 10 people were injured. One of the injured was a traffic police officer who was helping the pedestrians run over by Kato's truck. Kato stabbed the officer from behind and walked away to stab more people.
A Japanese TV station showed the image of Kato right before his capture as he pointed his knife at a police officer. The officer reportedly told Kato that he would shoot him if he did not surrender, so Kato ended his killing spree. Everything happened in less than 10 minutes.
After he was taken to a nearby police station, Kato allegedly told police he was simply "tired of life," he just wanted to kill people and he did not care who he killed.
"I just wish everything was a dream. I just cannot comprehend what exactly happened," said the father of slain 19-year-old college student Takahiro Kawaguchi as he spoke to TV reporters at his house. "I don't know what ticked him off, but he just took his anger out on my son. This is unforgivable."
Many Japanese visited the crime site Monday, offering flowers to the victims. "I could have been there," one man told reporters. "I was in Akihabara yesterday at the time the stabbing took place. I was only a few blocks away," said the man in tears. "That really could have been me. I cannot just be happy that I am here. I feel awful for those innocent victims."
Akihabara has been a popular spot both for locals and tourists looking for bargains on the latest appliances and computers. In the past few years, Akihabara started to draw more crowds who wish to have coffee or tea at "maids cafes" where waitresses dressed in French maids' costumes serve them. The area is also a "must-go" for Japanese "anime" fans visiting stores selling comics and figures of various anime characters.
"He probably did not care whether he was arrested or not as a result of his act," said Nobuo Komiya, a professor of criminology at Rissho University in Tokyo. "He had so much anger he had to let it out. It could be toward people or it could be toward society."
Earlier this month, Kato posted a series of cell phone messages onine suggesting his loneliness.
Date: May 21 Time: 19:34 "Is there anyone who needs me? I can tell for a fact that there is not."
Date: May 22 Time: 19:19 "I had to work late. I am drinking alone eating a packed meal from a convenience store. I am alive because I do not have the courage to kill myself."
Kato reportedly told the police he was dissatisfied with his work and work environment. His employer told reporters that Kato reported to work three days before the attack. He said Kato screamed and dashed out of the factory, as he said his work clothes were missing. Kato never returned.
Although Kato would write his comments to the online community, he sometimes felt "no one understood him," according to the police.
Date: June 1 Time: 03:11 "Everyone should die."
Date: June 1 Time: 07:06 "Murder should become legal."
"The act of killing probably was a form of revenge for him," said Komiya. "Committing a crime of such a large scale might have been his way of being not ignored."
Japan has seen an increase in murders of strangers in recent years. In 2006, there were four of such crimes, which doubled the following year.
This year, there already have been five cases where innocent bystanders were killed. In March, a 24-year-old man killed one person in southern Japan and killed another and injured seven in central Japan.
Also in March, an 18-year-old male pushed an office worker off a train platform. The male worker was run over by a train and died. None of the victims knew the suspects, who told the police they "did not care" who they killed.
"People who are unhappy in life somehow take their anger out on people," said Masayuki Kiryu, a professor of criminal psychology at Kansai University of International Studies.
"People used to take things out on objects such as kicking a vending machine when they were outraged. But some people now use people as objects to release their anger, which is quite chilling."
Kiryu said society in general is guarded today, and it has less tolerance for ambiguity. "As a result, we tend to kick out people who may not fit in. Many parents tell their kids not to talk to strangers. That may help in terms of self protection, but that also deprives people of communication. They do not learn how to talk to people directly."
There have been at least three warnings posted on the Internet in the last eight years, which resulted in actual murders. Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda asked authorities to look into external factors that may prompt young people to commit heartless crimes.
"Many young people have their own blogs, or they belong to some online social network so it is almost impossible for the police to check every Web site for a possible crime warning," said Tetsuya Shibui, an author who closely follows the relationship between crimes and the use of the Internet.
An attempt to regulate or monitor messages posted on the Web will not put a stop to such crimes, according to Shibui. "I think the fact he posted so many messages should show that he wanted to be heard. He wanted someone to recognize him. Some people need the Internet to have their voices heard."
Society needs to work on creating an environment for people to be heard, said Komiya. "The government needs to create a system where people can get emotional support. Just like we see in the United States and Europe, we should have a mentor system. Many people nowadays cannot even talk to their family members. But if they have a mentor, that may give them peace of mind. Knowing that there is one person in this world who would listen to you can make a huge difference."