Japanese pop group AKB48 cancels fan events after saw-wielding man injures two idols and employee
Saw-wielding man hurts two band members and an employee in unprecedented attack
Japan's hugely popular pop group AKB48 has cancelled fan events after a saw-wielding man attacked two members and an employee, shocking the nation and raising questions over security.
The two women and the male employee who tried to stop the attack on Sunday at a fan event in northern Japan suffered hand and head injuries but are recovering, police and the group's blog say.
The attack on a wildly popular group whose members are dubbed "idols that you can meet" because of their approachable fan services has rattled people in a nation known for its safety levels. The news topped television entertainment shows and even the two nationwide newspapers, Yomiuri and Mainichi.
On Sunday, the group gave a mini-concert for hundreds of fans and then followed with a handshaking event, in which fans who buy special CDs can shake hands and chat briefly with their favourite member. As soon as the handshaking event in Takizawa city started, a man suddenly took out a saw from his jacket and went towards the two women standing at the entrance.
Police immediately arrested Satoru Umeda, who is 24 and unemployed.
Dozens of AKB48 handshaking events are held in Japan every year. Bouncers - called "peelers" in Japan - are assigned to these events to remove fans who linger, but no major attacks had been previously reported.
"It's nice they are close to the fans, but we have to remember there is a possibility that people like [the attacker] may sneak in," Seiji Miyane, a popular talk show host said during his programme on NTV. He said handshaking was one of AKB's main appeals but also a weak spot whose risk needed to be mitigated.
Anna Iriyama, 18, and Rina Kawaei, 19, suffered hand and head injuries, and the man suffered a broken hand. All three were still in hospital yesterday, but their injuries were not life-threatening, the group's organiser said on its official blog.
The AKB operator announced it was cancelling a concert at its main theatre in Tokyo's Akihabara electronic and sub-culture district, as well as several other events around Japan. Affiliates in central Japan and Osaka also cancelled or postponed events.
The group has a rotating cast of more than 90 young women and affiliates across the country and in Indonesia, mainland China and Taiwan.