Police are investigating whether this was an act of terror in retaliation for the execution of Aum Shinrikyo cult members last year.

A 21-year-old man was arrested this morning after driving a vehicle down one of Tokyo’s busiest thoroughfares, injuring nine people shortly after midnight on New Year’s Day.

According to police, the man drove the lightweight kei vehicle into Takeshita Street in Harajuku at 12:10 a.m., ploughing into pedestrians as he drove the wrong way up the one-way road. After driving approximately 130 metres (426 feet) from the Meiji Dori entrance to the street, the vehicle crashed into the side of a building.

Following the collision, the perpetrator abandoned the vehicle, punching a nearby young man in the face before fleeing the scene on foot.

▼ Emergency services arrived within minutes.

▼ Police cordoned off the famous entrance to Takeshita Street opposite Harajuku Station.

After a 20-minute search, the suspect was located by police several hundred metres away in Yoyogi Park and immediately arrested. Authorities say the perpetrator, Kazuhiro Kusakabe, is now being held on suspicion of attempted murder.

A total of eight people – two in their teens, three in their twenties, two in their thirties, and one in his fifties – all sustained non-life-threatening injuries in the attack, while one man in his teens remains unconscious and in critical condition in hospital. Police say the victims were all male.

During questioning, Kusakabe claimed he wanted to kill “teenage male university students” by running them down in a vehicle. He also said he drove from Osaka in a rental car, and his motivation for ramming into the pedestrians was to kill them.

▼ News reports from the scene showed the vehicle and some of the damage it caused.

The abandoned car in Takeshita Street, which had Osaka number plates, also contained a 100-litre (26-gallon) jerrycan filled with 20 litres of kerosene, which Kusakabe planned to use in order to set fire to the vehicle after the attack, according to investigators.

Kusakabe claimed his actions were “retribution for the death penalty”. Police are currently continuing their investigations into the details behind the incident, including whether the mention of the death penalty was in relation to recent hangings or the hanging of Aum Shinrikyo cult members last year.

Takeshita Street is a five-metre (16-foot) wide road that stretches for approximately 350 metres, lined on both sides with multi-storey buildings and stores usually frequented by teenagers, young people and international tourists. At the time of the incident, the thoroughfare was closed to vehicles as there was more foot traffic than usual for that time of the evening, due to New Year’s celebrations at Meiji Jingu shrine and Tōgō Shrine nearby.

Sources: Mainichi Shimbun, Sankei
Featured image: Instagram/daichan1969