I’ve been really busy this week, but I’ve been preparing posts on the AKB48 general election early report (総選挙速報発表) and their official rhythm game app. But those will have to wait, because today, there was a terrible incident.
At an AKB48 handshake event in Iwate Prefecture, a man suddenly pulled a 50 cm. (~20 in.) saw out of his bag, and attacked some members in the handshake lane he was in. One male staff member was injured, as were AKB48 members Rina Kawaei (川栄李奈), 19 years old, and Anna Iriyama (入山杏奈), 18 years old. The severity of their injuries has not yet been announced, but responding police and fire officers said that all three victims were conscious. The 24-year-old assailant was promptly detained by the people around him, and was arrested on the charge of attempted murder.
According to NHK, staff were checking that the handshake event attendees did not have weapons in their hands, but the contents of people’s bags were not being examined. This is a major security failure that I sincerely hope is rectified by the next time one of these types of meet-and-greet events occurs.
As you can see in this video, at handshake events, attendees can shake hands with AKB48 members directly, with only a table between them. A staff member stands close by with a stopwatch making sure that fans move along after their allotted time is up and that they don’t try to get too close to the members, but there is sadly little preventing attacks like the one that happened today.
An 18-year-old man who has attended AKB48’s handshake events at least 10 times said he has seen occurrences like fans aggressively proposing marriage to their favorite members, and people screaming “You betrayed me!” at members in a loud voice at these types of events, but that male staff members immediately respond when these situations occur. One male fan commented, “It’s a shame that this attack happened, but considering what’s happened in the past, I’m not really surprised.”
We don’t know what the attacker’s motivation was, but this sort of thing could happen again, and considering the sheer number of people who attend these events, it’s almost amazing that it took this long for a physical attack on an AKB48 member to happen. It sounds like security for these events needs to be seriously stepped up to ensure the safety of AKB48 members and staff members.
Here is Kawaei performing “Hasute to Wasute” (ハステとワステ) as the center of BKA48 (starting at 2:50):
Here is Iriyama singing “Temodemo no Namida” (てもでもの涙/’Even If’ Tears) with Rena Katou (加藤玲奈):
I hope that both of them and the staff member who was injured make a fast and complete recovery, and that all members of the AKB48 team can feel and be completely safe at future events.
Update: Both Iriyama and Kawaei underwent surgery for broken fingers and cuts.