Yesterday started with unpleasantness about which I would rather not post, but my objective is to primarily blog about experiences in Japan; particularly, things out of the ordinary so here we are.
Normally it is hard to enter the narrow road between the junior high and elementary schools. Concrete electric poles create obstacles in the roadway and many people treat it as a drag strip regardless that there are faster and safer roads available to them. Yet yesterday it was worse than normal because a couple vans were stopping in a choke point causing the hesitant drivers in oncoming traffic to bottle up. As I got closer, I glimpsed a couple police officers on the side of the road and I got concerned.
My worry was that there was another bicycle-automobile accident. Nobody has died yet, but the disregard for safety in that neighborhood has precipitated some injury incidents. Already in this dejected state, the real situation began to unfold. More police officers were appearing and redirecting traffic out of the area. I was passed in as a school staff member, but when I arrived at the school gate a large police vehicle pulled just inside and blocked the way. I was directed to park at the junior high and proceed around the school building to the gym.
By the time I was heading around the building, it was completely blocked off with yellow tape and about 100 officers (many of whom appeared to be temporarily deputized volunteers) were gathering for a meeting. Many odd-looking pieces of equipment were being unloaded and I thought it was looking like a bomb scare or poison gas scare. No information was forthcoming and I was concerned about my safety.
Generally Japan is very safety oriented, but several times we have had issue with the foreign teachers’ condition being forgotten or neglected. Regardless of the situation, I think each of us should be considering our person safety and not surrendering that responsibility too easily. I informed the vice-principal that I would wait in my car (upwind) if it was all the same.
When I tired of waiting, I interrogated a police officer near my location carefully. At first he was following policy of not giving information, but when I clarified my need to evaluate my safety he opened up a little more. There was no bomb or poison threat and no immediate concern about safety, an investigation was underway. As we finished, a junior high staff member invited me into their offices to wait.
Feedback came that they were closing the school and after a series of phone calls I was cleared to do paperwork at the junior high. A new foreign teacher was on his first day there, so the bright point of my day was a chance to meet him.
Our school hires three retirees to patrol the school grounds after hours. Their job is to report anything suspicious. Apparently, in the evening a 71 year old patrol was checking the school and was assaulted. He was struck in the head and our principal discovered him unconscious in the morning. What motivated the attack is not yet certain; however, there is no apparent harm to the school property and there is no sign of robbery. Police were approaching it as an attempted murder investigation as of yesterday afternoon.
Describing how and why it is so disturbing to me is not an easy task, but I found myself ill at ease for hours yesterday. The junior high teachers walked all of their students home after school: a weekly practice at elementary schools, but rather unusual for junior high. Since there was no information about the attacker, people are on alert. Today there are apparently still a number of police in the neighborhood.
Praying for the recovery of the victim and clarification of the assailant and motivation.
Update: Just received word that the victim passed away at seven this morning.
Update: Sept 20 – heard over the weekend that they are labeling this an accident, but this morning I was fingerprinted for exclusionary purposes.