In a shocking incident, an explosion occurred during a political campaign event attended by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in Wakayama, western Japan on April 16, 2023. This marks the second attack on a Japanese political leader in less than a year, prompting concerns about security measures for public figures.
The prime minister was attending a campaign event at a fishing port when an object flew overhead and landed near him. A security officer quickly covered the object with a bulletproof briefcase, but a young man carrying a backpack was seen running away from the scene. Fishermen who were present at the event tackled the suspect and held him until police arrived.
While the prime minister was unharmed, one police official was injured by fragments of the device, which did not fully explode. The suspect, identified as 24-year-old Ryuji Kimura, has been arrested on suspicion of throwing an explosive in a metal tube at Kishida.
This attack comes nine months after the assassination of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who was killed by a homemade gun during a campaign speech. The investigation into Abe’s assassination revealed flaws in his security, leading to tighter protective measures for public figures.
The incident has raised concerns about the security measures in place for political campaign events and public figures in Japan. While violent crimes are rare in Japan due to strict gun control laws, there has been growing concern about homemade guns and explosives in recent years.
Authorities have charged the suspect with several crimes, including violating gun-control laws. They are also searching for evidence of bomb-making at the suspect’s home in Hyogo prefecture.
Local elections are scheduled to take place nationwide this month, and Japan is set to host a series of Group of Seven meetings leading up to the May 19-21 leaders’ summit in Hiroshima. The incident has prompted questions about how election campaigns are being handled and how security can be balanced with the freedom of elections.
Fishermen who were present at the event expressed shock and concern about the incident, with many calling for better security measures. Tsutomu Konishi, who witnessed the attack, said, “I never thought a crime like this would happen in my hometown, which is a rather small fishing area. I’m still shocked and stunned.”
Masaki Nishide, another fisherman who was present at the event, pointed out that the suspect stood out because he was the only one carrying a backpack. He said, “If I were in charge of security, I would have asked for a bag check.”
Kiyotaka Hamada, a senior member of the local fishing association, expressed worry about the expected loss of income from the days they cannot work while the port facilities are closed for the investigation. He said, “We put so much effort throughout the village to welcome the prime minister here on his first-ever visit. Now we cannot even go out to sea.”
The incident has sparked discussions about the need for better security measures for political campaigns and public figures in Japan, as well as the impact of such incidents on local communities and businesses.