Man who slashed random bullet train passengers cheered as his sentence was handed down.

On the night of June 9, 2018, a Shinkansen bullet train departed Tokyo Station, bound for Osaka. Not long after, as it made its way down a section of the Tokaido Shinkansen line between Shin-Yokohama and Odawara stations, a man named Ichiro Kojima began slashing two female passengers, neither of whom had ever had any prior contact with him, using a nata, a type of broad Japanese machete that resembles a cleaver.

Both women were severely injured, but their lives were saved thanks in part to the heroic efforts of Kotaro Umeda, a 38-year-old traveler from Hyogo Prefecture, who bravely intervened. However, Kojima then began attacking Umeda with a separate knife he’d brought onboard the train, inflicting lethal wounds to Umeda’s neck and thigh.

Kojiima was taken into custody, and displayed no remorse for his actions. He stated that he had carried out the random attack with the intent to kill, and declared that if he was released back into society, he would, absolutely, kill again.

Capital punishment is allowed under the Japanese legal system, and the country executed five convicted murderers in 2019, plus another 15 in 2018 (many of whom were involved with the 1995 Tokyo subway sarin gas attack). However, Kojima will not be executed for his crimes. The Odawara branch of the Yokohama District Court has sentenced the now-24-year-old Kojima to life in prison, with the appeal deadline of midnight, January 7, passing with no filing by the murderer nor his legal counsel.

The life imprisonment sentence had been requested by the prosecution, which had opted not to pursue the death penalty, according to the Japan Times, in light of a “personality disorder” which was diagnosed after his arrest. Life imprisonment seems to have been Kojima’s desired outcome as well. Homeless and unemployed, he said he had specifically planned to keep the number of fatalities in his attack under three, believing that any more would result in being sentenced to death. When his life-imprisonment sentence was initially announced in December, Kojiima joyously raised his hands in the air and shouted “Banzai!”, and as he was escorted out of the courtroom he paused to turn towards the judge one last time and say “Thank you very much.”

Supporters of capital punishment are no doubt upset over a remorseless criminal becoming a permanent, cared-for guest of the state, and even those opposed to the death penalty likely feel frustration at what appears to have been a calculated, utterly reprehensible gaming of the legal system that in the end gave the killer exactly what he wanted. Nevertheless, there’ll be one less murderer off the streets, even if in this case that silver lining doesn’t shine very brightly at all.

Sources: Kyodo via Hachima Kiko, FNN Prime, Japan Times (1, 2)
Top image: Pakutaso
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