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History of Terrorism in Japan

Updated on February 15, 2013

Japan is widely considered to be one of the safest countries in the world. Interpol statistics for 2004 listed Japan’s Homicide Rate as 0.5 per 100,000 people – one of the lowest rates in the world. Japan isn’t generally the country that comes to mind when someone mentions terrorism. However, there have been acts of terrorism committed in Japan in the 20th century.

August 24, 1945: Buildings Attacked in Shimane Prefecture's "Matsue Incident" by Dissidents

Nine days after Hirohito announced Japan's surrender, ending World War II, 40 dissidents protested the decision to surrender by attacking and burning several buildings in Matsue, including a newspaper office, the Shimane Prefectural Office, and a broadcasting station. Ten people were killed.

March 31, 1970: Japan Airlines Flight 351 hijacked while flying from Tokyo to Fukuoka by 9 members of the Japanese Communist League (a predecessor of the Japanese Red Army)

Nine members of the Red Army Faction of the Communist League, armed with Japanese swords, bombs, and steel pipes hijacked Flight 351, taking 129 hostages and demanding to be taken to North Korea. All hostages were later released unharmed.

April 6, 1972: Yokohama's Soji-ji Ossuary Bombed by the East Asia Anti-Japan Armed Front

The East Asia Anti-Japan Armed Front bombed the Soji-ji Ossuary in Yokohama where the bones of 5000 Japanese who lived in Korea under Japanese rule were stored. A bomb disguised as a fire extinguisher was detonated on top of a headstone. The bomb left a crater in the ground but the ossuary sustained no significant damage. No one was hurt.

October 23, 1972: Hokkaido's Fusetsu no Gunzo and Institute of Northern Cultures Bombed by the East Asia Anti-Japan Armed Front

A bronze monument known as the Fusetsu no Gunzo in Hokkaido was bombed by the East Asia Anti-Japan Armed Front. The monument displays an elderly Ainu man (Japan's indigenous people) surrounded by four Japanese colonists. The group targeted the monument to protest Japan's "imperialist aggression" policies. Two bombs were detonated. The monument was destroyed but the Institute of Northern Cultures received little damage. No one was hurt.

July 23, 1973: Japan Airlines Flight 404 Hijacked While Flying From Amsterdam to Tokyo by the Japanese Red Army

Five members of the Japanese Red Army joined four Palestinians to hijack Japan Airlines Flight 404 taking 145 people hostage. The group demanded the release of one of their members from jail in Israel, but the Israeli government refused to release him. 89 hours after the hijacking, all passengers were released unharmed, and the hijackers blew up the plane. The only casualty was caused when a grenade went off during the hijacking, killing the female hijacker and injuring one crew member.

August 8, 1973: South Korean Leader Kim Dae-Jung Kidnapped in Tokyo

Agents from the Korea Central Intelligence Agency kidnapped future-president of South Korea Kim Dae-Jung from a Tokyo hotel with plans to kill him. However, swift action from Japan and the U.S. thwarted their plans, and he was released unharmed a week later in Seoul.

August 30, 1974: Tokyo's Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Bombed by East Asia Anti-Japan Armed Front

The East Asia Anti-Japan Armed Front bombed the main headquarters of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in Tokyo killing 8 people. The group sought to protest Japan's military and commercial advances in East Asia before and after World War II.

Mitsubishi Havy Industries Bombing 1974

September 28, 1977: Japan Airlines Flight 472 Hijacked While Flying From Paris to Tokyo by the Japanese Red Army

Five members of the Japanese Red Army hijacked Japan Airlines Flight 472 shortly after departing from a layover in Mumbai, India, taking 156 people hostage. The hijackers demanded and received their ransom demands of $6 million and the release of 9 of the jailed members. All hostages were released unharmed several days later.

June 23, 1985: Bomb Explodes in Tokyo's Narita Airport

A Canadian-based Sikh group placed a bomb inside luggage bound for an Air India flight scheduled to fly from Tokyo to Bangkok. The bomb was intended to go off while the plane was in the air, but the perpetrators didn't realize, however, that Japan does not use Daylight Savings Time. As a result, the bomb exploded inside Narita Airport in Tokyo killing two baggage handlers and injuring four.

June 27, 1994: Sarin Gas Released in Matsumoto by Aum Shinrikyo Members

Members of the religious cult Aum Shinrikyo released sarin gas in several areas in Matsumoto city killing 7 and injuring 600. The group used Matsumoto as a test, and would release the gas 9 months later in a Tokyo subway. The reason for the attack may have been to start an apocalypse and to get the group's leader, Shoko Asahara, elected to be the new leader of Japan.

March 20, 1995: Sarin Gas Released in Tokyo Subway by Aum Shinrikyo

Aum Shinrikyo members release sarin gas on several subway trains, killing 13 people and injuring 6000.

Sarin Attacks on Tokyo Subway


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