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Is Japan’s prime minister the target of a discontented fringe?

Killer of former PM Abe is not seen as a criminal but as a hero by some people
A man (left), whom local media have named as 24-year-old Ryuji Kimura, believed to have thrown an explosive toward Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, leaves Wakayama Nishi Police Station in Wakayama, on April 17

A man (left), whom local media have named as 24-year-old Ryuji Kimura, believed to have thrown an explosive toward Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, leaves Wakayama Nishi Police Station in Wakayama, on April 17. (Photo: JIJI PRESS / AFP) / JAPAN OUT)

Published: April 17, 2023 11:27 AM GMT
Updated: April 17, 2023 11:29 AM GMT

It was perhaps a purely technical problem that fortuitously avoided the worst for Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida who was the target of an attack very similar to the one that claimed the life of former prime minister, Shinzo Abe, nine months ago.

A police officer and a local fisherman reportedly sustained minor injuries in the attack and Ryuji Kimura, 24, from Hyogo prefecture ended up under arrest.

The suspect was instantly tackled by at least three men, probably fishermen from the Wakayama area, where Kishida was to give a speech in support of the official candidate of the Liberal Democratic Party in the port area of Saigasaki.

Tsutomu Konishi, a fisherman, first noticed something fly overhead and land close to the prime minister.

Judging by the shape of the object thrown and the explosion, it was a homemade "pipe bomb" and not a pistol as in Abe's case. Investigation sources said the suspect brought two bombs with him, one of which was used in the attack.

The materials for the construction of these bombs are readily available and easy to make even by non-specialists. You can find tutorials of all kinds on YouTube.

"It is unforgivable that such violence took place at such a time"

According to Tetsuya Tsuda, a firearms critic, a typical tube bomb mechanism consists of a bare metal cylinder filled with gunpowder, a detonator, and then the whole thing is sealed. When it is ignited, the internal pressure builds up, causing the entire device to explode into smithereens.

Experts have pointed out that if the material had been iron, a large number of people could have been injured in the blast. But the device here appears to have been made of thin aluminum. These types of pipe bombs are nothing new in the Land of the Rising Sun. They were in fact first used in student protests during the late 60s and 70s.

Kishida said immediately after the attack that the incident shouldn't disrupt the electoral process. "Together with all of you, we must move forward with the elections," he said.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno told reporters that "elections are at the foundation of democracy. It is unforgivable that such violence took place at such a time."

After the incident, Kishida was escorted by police officers to a car parked about 10 meters away and taken to the Wakayama Prefectural Police Headquarters.

Mitsuru Fukuda, a professor of emergency and risk management at Nihon University, said the venue chosen for Kishida's speech, like Abe's, was less than ideal for such an event — there should have been a much greater distance between him and the audience.

"There is a current of thought, albeit a minority one, which sees Abe's assassin not as an executioner to be punished"

The incident further affects the credibility of Japanese police protection systems, especially in view of the G-7 summit, added Fukuda.

Yet, currently, security may not be the number one problem in the country.

In fact, in the last six months, an exceptional amount of money and clothes have arrived at the detention center in Osaka, where Tetsuya Yamagami, the suspect in the killing of Abe, is being held.

In some cases, the money is even sent by registered mail and has already reached more than 1 million yen (US$7,460.88). Some have even sent sweets and prepaid cards — that can be used in a large coffee chain — to show support.

Furthermore, on the website of an online petition supporting the murderer, signatures accumulate asking for a reduction of the prisoner's sentence. More than 13,000 have already been collected.

Indeed in Japan, there is a current of thought, albeit a minority one, which sees Abe's assassin not as an executioner to be punished, on the contrary, as a hero who has in fact accomplished what many would have wished but lacked the means or maybe just the courage.

The comments left on the petition site speak for themselves, “He is the person who protected Japan," or "He is just a victim," and "If I had been the subject of the same upbringing [referring to his mother’s ties to the Unification Church] I could have carried out the same attack."

In short, for an extreme fringe of people, the killing of Abe was not a criminal act. The one who committed the crime is imprisoned but that is seen as a serious act of injustice by many.

Kishida is perhaps paying for this kind of absurd discontent.

*The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official editorial position of UCA News.

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