In 2008, everything came to a head in Tokyo's Akihabara. The frequency of public flashing was up, and cops worried about growing mobs. Then tragedy struck, leaving seven dead and more injured. Akihabara is now ready to return to normal.
On Sunday June 8, 2008, 25-year-old Tomohiro Kato drove a rented truck into a crowd of people in Akihabara's "Pedestrian Paradise", which is when the main drag is closed to car traffic on Sunday, giving pedestrians free rein over the street. Kato got out of the truck and began stabbing innocent bystanders, killing seven and injuring 10 before the police apprehended him.
At the time, Kato said, "I am tired of life. I came to Akihabara to kill people. It didn't matter who they were. I came alone." Early news reports tried to blame Ninja Gaiden 2 for the attack, but while on trial, Kato said he carried out the rampage because he was being cyberbullied.
Traditionally, Akihabara is Tokyo's electronics district, but during the 1980s and on into the 1990s, more and more shops selling anime, manga and video games began to populate the area.
Things peaked around 2005 and 2006. The area became increasingly commercialised due to new office space. A new commuter train began servicing Akihabara, bringing in more and more individuals from the suburbs. And the area became a pop culture phenomena after the publication of the book Train Man and the ensuing film and television adaptations.
Something was in the air in 2008. The Pedestrian Paradise, which began in 1973, was becoming increasingly crowded. More women dressed as maids were passing out fliers for maid cafes, and the "street idols" were getting more daring, flashing their panties for hordes of men with cameras and erections.
Earlier that year, self-described "multi-sexy idol" Asuka Sawamoto began arousing attention for flashing her thonged tush. The 30-something-year old, who claimed to be in her early twenties, was arrested, but not before her antics made the evening news. She's since moved on to a career in pornography.
In mid 2008, the Akihabara Massacre changed everything. More cops appeared on the street, and even promotional events, like the Metal Solid IV events, were cancelled. Security cameras were put in place and Pedestrian Paradise was over.
Akihabara is in the process of returning to its old self. Things have changed. However, after months of discussion, Pedestrian Paradise looks set to return, over two and a half years since the Akihabara Massacre. According to law enforcement officials, the area's main street will once again be foot traffic only every Sunday starting on January 16 - but on a provisional basis.
Tomohiro Kato, meanwhile, is still on trial for murder.
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