You call that a kiridashi knife? Seriously, I can’t tell.

On 22 July Tokyo Metropolitan Police announced the arrest of a 15-year-old high school student for violation of the Firearms and Swords Act. The young man is said to have been carrying a knife that was 6.2 centimeters (2.44 inches) long, which is two millimeters longer than the acceptable length of six centimeters (2.36 inches).

The difference in lethalness between a 6.2-centimeter knife and a six-centimeter knife is obvious to martial arts experts like myself, but just in case it isn’t clear to the rest of you, here’s an example: Say you were to attack me with a knife, and I was holding a copy of Anna Karenina.

▼ I may not know karate, but I know Karenina.

Knowing that you were a law-abiding knife-wielding killer with a blade of less than six centimeters, I would know to use the Tolstoy classic to block the strike, since its 864-page count should be enough to absorb the blade impact.

However, if there were no regulation of knife length, I wouldn’t know whether to take it on with one of the finest examples of Russian literature or just run away screaming. The very fabric of society would then begin to unravel.

Now that we understand why such laws are both practical and necessary. Here’s what happened.

At about one o’clock in the morning on the 22nd, the youth was found by police sitting alone on a bench in a park of Kodaira City. The officers questioned him and then searched his bag, finding the offending blade inside.

When asked why he had the knife, the teen replied, “It’s for self-defense,” which is admittedly not the best answer to such a question by the police. “Whittling,” “cleaning and gutting fish,” or even “keeping fingernails tidy” are all preferable to something synonymous with “righteously cutting people.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the police took the young man to the station and booked him for his illegal two millimeters of metal.

However, not long after, someone realized that this knife was in fact a kiridashi knife, which is a simple utility blade that old-timers used to use to sharpen pencils. Kiridashi knives usually don’t have wooden or plastic handles and are made from a single piece of metal.

▼ A standard kiridashi knife

Another unique feature of kiridashi knives is that they are allowed to be carried up to lengths of seven centimeters by law. Now, I see all of you out there scratching your heads, so let me impart some more martial arts mastery.

In this situation I know I have a copy of Anna Karenina and War and Peace in each hand. Thanks to these limits I can now efficiently counter a fast regular knife strike with the lighter and thinner Anna. On the other hand, if faced with a kiridashi knife I can more easily know to use the heavier but thicker War and Peace.

▼ These laws all begin to make perfect sense when you picture yourself fighting with books

In addition to making a literary defense easier, this rule also deemed the boy’s knife well within the legal limits and the police were left with no choice but to release him at 10 a.m. the same day.

Like many of us, netizens really didn’t know what to make of this incident.

“I don’t think we’re allowed to carry self-defense knives…are we?”
“Knives don’t make themselves too long, people do.”
“What is a 15-year-old doing in the park in the middle of the night with a knife anyway?”
“It’s scary that the police can just round you up just for carrying a knife.”
“A kiridashi knife looks a lot more dangerous than other knives.”
“He was in jail for nine hours. He should sue for wrongful arrest.”

There is no word from the teen or his family yet, but a police spokesperson said they are investigating new charges of carrying a concealed weapon. They also said they will strive to improve the education of officers with regards to proper knife identification.

It isn’t really clear who is right or wrong in this situation, but one thing is certain: knife ownership in Japan is really difficult. So when purchasing or making one out of pasta, be sure to consult the laws and regulations surrounding these dangerous tools thoroughly.

Source: Asahi Shimbun, Niconico News, Hachima Kiko
Top image: Wikipedia/Jens Kraglund
Insert image: Wikipedia/Pratheep P S, Wikipedia/Liannadavis (Edited by SoraNews24)