TOKYO — A shooting sends shudders through orderly, low-crime Japan: A man emerges from a crowd and wields a hand-made firearm so badly that it is wrapped in tape.

The firearm measuring 40cm (16 inches) in length was used to murder Shinzo Abe, former Prime Minister, on Friday while he was campaigning for his party in Nara, western Japan. It looked more like a propellant made from pipes that were taped together and then filled with explosives.

Police said that several of these guns were found in the raid of the suspect’s Nara apartment. Handmade guns are almost impossible to track, which makes an investigation more difficult than with standard weapons.

These weapons are not used in Japan where they are more common to use as stabbers, set fire to places with gasoline, or run haywire in vehicles.

Due to strict gun control laws, the suspect likely chose a handcrafted weapon. Tetsuya Yamagami was an ex-member of Japan’s navy and was familiar with how to assemble and handle weapons.

Experts in crime say that instructions for making guns are available online. Guns can also be printed with a 3D printer.

Analysts described the Abe attack as “lone-wolf terrorist” These cases are where the perpetrator acts on his own, often in support of certain political views. It is very difficult to detect the crime in advance.

It is not clear what motivated Abe’s assassination. Japanese media reported that Abe had developed hatred towards a religious group, which his mother was obsessed with. This caused financial problems for his family. However, the name of the group was not mentioned in these reports.

Japan has been the victim of attacks on politicians in recent times. Abe’s grandfather, the then-Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi (then Prime Minister), was stabbed in 1960 but survived. Japan established a security force modeled on the American Secret Service in 1975 when Takeo Miki, then-Prime Minister, was attacked at the funeral of Eisaku Sato’s grandfather.

Hideto Ted Osanai (chief executive of the International Bodyguard Association Japan) and other experts think that the Japanese may have learned superficial skills like escort formation, rather than the preventive mindset essential to security.

“Japanese are so accustomed to living peaceful lives that the security guards were caught sleeping,” Yasuhiro Sashi, president of Safety-Pro (a Tokyo-based security company), said.

Sasaki stated that he was shocked at the inaction of anyone to save Abe between the first shot and the second shot. This scene is repeated over and over again on national television.

Sasaki stated that guards should have physically pulled Abe from danger. He was also curious why they didn’t notice a suspicious individual approaching and grabbing what could have been a weapon out of a bag.

Chief of the Council for Public Policy’s research division, Isao Itabashi said it was difficult to provide security during elections campaigns, as the purpose of politics is to be close to voters.

Japan is far more cautious than the United States with regard to bulletproof glass. Security officials are less likely to resort to shooting potential attackers, unlike the U.S.

Itabashi stated that “the presumption is here that people aren’t armed.”

Osanai was concerned that more people might use handcrafted guns such as the one used to kill Abe in “copycat crime” and he noted a trend in disgruntled individuals turning to random crimes, randomly targeting victims.

Japan’s conformist culture makes life difficult for many people. They also put immense pressure on themselves. They turn to suicide when they are forced to blame others. He said that when they blame others they resort to indiscriminate crime.”

A man dressed in a Joker costume opened fire on a Tokyo train last year. 17 people were injured. 25 people were killed in an arson attack at an Osaka clinic in December 2021. Another arson at a Kyoto animation studio resulted in the deaths of 36 people.


Yuri Kageyama is on Twitter