Around 11:20 p.m. on the evening of Dec 4, a 36-year-old woman suffered serious knife wounds when she was slashed on the street in Tokyo’s Shibuya Ward.
When police arrived at the scene, the woman was in a nearby residence where she had fled after the assault. She had been stabbed in the side of the abdomen and the arm.
“While walking home from Minami Shinjuku station on the Odakyu Line, the woman was attacked from the rear. She received six wounds in the arms and back,” a police source told Nikkan Gendai (Dec 7). “Her assailant wore dark clothes and the woman said she did not recognize him.”
The victim was taken by ambulance to a nearby hospital and is in stable condition. Police are treating it as an assault by a so-called “tori-ma,” or passing demon, as random slashers are called in Japanese.
This case, warns the tabloid, is the sort of thing that people can afford to disregard only at their peril. But is there anything the average person can do to keep random slashers at bay?
“It’s important not to let violent thugs get close,” says Kozo Kaku, an author of historical novels which work in aspects of the martial art of Aikido. He adds, “They tend to target women who stroll at a slow pace. Or conversely, it’s more difficult for them to go after women who walk with a vigorous stride. So women should lean slightly forward and walk at a light, rhythmical pace—similar to the way samurai walked in olden times—and project a barrier of ‘ki’ (a state of alertness translated variously as ‘focus’ or ‘body and mind coordination’) that discourages assaults before they take place.
“The jaw line should be lifted so that the eyes are directed straight ahead. Women who look down at the ground while they walk are more vulnerable,” Kaku advises.
Another important factor in discouraging attacks is clothing. Takashi Nakayama, the chief director of the Japan Security Consultants Association (Nihon Bohan Shindanshi Kyokai) based in Tokyo’s Shinjuku Ward, provides further advice to worried citizens.
“There’s a trend for depraved people to feel pleasure in seeing blood flow from their victims, so they will go after people who wear more conspicuous colors, such as white or beige,” says Nakayama. “So for people who tend to put in overtime and return home late, wearing a dark-colored coat is advisable.
“Women who wear shoes with spike heels are also easier targets, so on the way home they should change to shoes with low heels or flat soles.”
But despite these precautions, should a woman find herself under attack, what should she do?
“She should shout at the top of her lungs, ‘Tasukete! Keisatsu!’ (Help! Police!) and swing her handbag or anything else at the attacker’s eyes. If the assailant’s vision becomes impaired, the chances of him fleeing will increase.
“For further peace of mind, I recommend that women outside at night walk with a can of pepper spray at the ready in their right hand,” Kaku said.