Nguyen Hai Dang, 30, a Vietnamese interpreter working at a company in Nakano, was on his way back home when he saw police cars and ambulances crowding the streets of his neighborhood on Thursday.
He checked the local news on his phone and saw there had been a quadruple murder 500 meters from his home.
Police officers stand near the shooting and stabbing incident scene in Nakano, Japan on May 25, 2023. Photo by Reuters
A thirty-something-year-old male suspect had stabbed a woman with a knife and shot two police officers approaching the crime scene, before seizing hostages and retreating into a house.
Police had swarmed the neighborhood and asked resident to either stay inside or evacuate before they sealed off the area for the night.
“After calming myself down, I went straight home, locked my doors, and stayed with my wife and children. We heard two gunshots. Helicopters were flying through the sky the whole night, and we couldn’t get ourselves to sleep,” Dang recalled.
The Vietnamese community living and working in Nakano was shook up by the event, which shattered the peace of the normally tranquil countryside district with emergency sirens and fear.
“My colleagues and I heard about the incident at work in the factory. We panicked because this is the first time something like this happened here,” said Ha My, a 22-year-old intern from the central province of Quang Tri.
My didn’t even dare go home since she was afraid that the suspect might evade police and be prowling for more victims.
Chinh, a Vietnamese who was working at another factory in the neighborhood, said police sealed off every street around her house.
“I all alone and scared, so I had to put on my earphones to try to sleep,” she said.
Nguyen Mai, 30, a housewife in Nakano, said she and her husband followed the news media all night in hopes the perpetrator would be caught.
“This is a severe issue,” she said. “We have a child in a local kindergarten so we were really worried.”
Things got even scarier when it was reported that a fourth victim, whose cause of death remained unknown, had died later that night.
The suspect was arrested at around 4:30p.m on Friday. He was identified as Masanori Aoki, 31, the son of a local elected official. It was reported that after committing the first three murders, Masanori retreated into his father’s house with hostages.
Aoki had reportedly obtained licenses that allowed him to possess four guns, including rifles and shotguns, according to The Japan Times.
Such an incident is rare in Japan as the country has one of the lowest rates of gun crimes in the world, according to CNN.
The incident sent shockwaves throughout Japan, one of the safest countries in the world.
It also triggered memories of the assassination of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe last year, said Dr. Fabio Gygi, chairman of the Japan Research Center at SOAS University of London, according to The New York Times.
Aoki’s motivation behind the murder has not yet been ascertained.
Still, many Vietnamese living in Nakano felt relieved after he was arrested and peace was restored in local communities, although their faith in Japan’s safety had been shaken.
“It has been eight years since I moved here, and this is the first time I witnessed something like this. I used to think that it would be more peaceful here in the countryside,” Dang said.
Chinh thought long and hard in search of insight when asked about the incident.
“Japanese people always follow the rules, in general, which contributes to the country’s renowned safety,” she said. “However, when they get triggered, nobody knows what could happen.”