Even in a country without Japan’s incredibly low rate of violent crime, the events that took place in Tokyo’s Akihabara on June 8, 2008 would have been shocking. Driving a rented truck, Tomohiro Kato, then in his late 20s, deliberately drove into a pedestrian area, only stopping and exiting the vehicle to continue his rampage by attacking still more victims with a knife. Seven innocent people lay dead, with another 10 seriously injured, by the time he was captured by police.
Kato was subsequently convicted and sentenced to death in 2011, a decision his lawyer appealed on the grounds that the punishment was unduly harsh. The Supreme Court disagrees, though, and as of February 2 has finalized the decision that Kato be executed for his crimes.
Presiding judge Ryuko Sakurai spoke on the decision, which was handed down at 6:58 in the evening. Sakurai acknowledged the now-32-year-old Kato’s feelings of dissatisfaction and loneliness brought about by his frequent bouncing from one temporary job to the next, and also the emotional harassment he experienced on the Internet forum he frequented. Nevertheless, the court could find no room for lenience in light of the premeditation shown in renting the truck, purchasing knives on June 6, and posting Internet messages about his plans to enact violence using them.
▼ The truck used in the attack
Sakurai also highlighted the “atrocious” methods by which the attack was carried out, which included waiting until just after Akihabara’s Chuo-dori thoroughfare was closed to traffic and became a pedestrian space at noon before driving the truck into the crowds, therein insuring as much loss of human life as possible. In the end, the court concluded that it “must confirm the punishment of death” for the indiscriminate murder and injury of the victims.
Mamoru Miura, Trial Division Director of the Supreme Public Prosecutor’s Office, voiced his approval of the decision, calling it the “appropriate” judgment for a crime of such severity. Elsewhere, Hiroshi Yuasa, a 61-year-old cab driver who was stabbed by Kato but survived the attack, called it “the obvious decision,” adding that he hopes Kato spends his remaining days thinking about the weight of his actions and what it means for human beings to live and die.
Specific details regarding Kato’s execution, such as its date and time, have yet to be released.