On Tuesday afternoon, police were alerted by sounds of gunshots at the Toda Chuo General Hospital in Saitama prefecture, west of Tokyo. Just over an hour later, the suspect entered a nearby post office where he has since remained with two women described as hostages, according to media reports.
Son of local lawmaker arrested in rare murder that left four dead in Japan
In a post on X, formerly Twitter, Mayor Fumihito Sugawara said a man believed to be carrying a gun opened fire at the hospital and then fled on a motorcycle.
Police were also investigating possible connections between the shooting and a fire at an apartment in Toda believed to be the suspect’s residence.
Police have not issued a public statement about the incidents, but local media have cited anonymous security sources.
Gun violence is extremely rare in Japan, which imposes strict and regular criminal background and mental health checks on gun owners, with written and shooting tests.
In 2022, nine shootings were recorded, causing a total of four deaths and two injuries, in the country, which has a population of about 125 million. Six of the shootings involved the yakuza criminal network, according to the National Police Agency.
Although violent crime is rare in Japan, other high-profile shootings occurred earlier this year.
In May, police arrested the 31-year-old son of a local lawmaker in connection with an assault that left four people dead, police said. The suspect was identified as Masanori Aoki, son of Nakano City Assembly Speaker Masamichi Aoki.
In June, an 18-year-old soldier-in-training shot three members of the Japan Self-Defense Forces at a shooting range in Gifu, central Japan, police said. The three men, one in his 50s and the other two in their 20s, were taken to a hospital, where two of them died.
However, it was the shooting death of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at a campaign event last year with a homemade weapon that really shocked the country. Police have since acknowledged security failures.
Anyone trying to obtain a gun in Japan must apply for a permit, attend a class on gun laws and safety, and pass a written exam. There is a full day training course on safe shooting techniques.
This is a developing story and will be updated. Lee reported from Seoul.