Attacks on high-ranking politicians like former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe are rare in Japan — but not without precedent. There have been a number of assassinations and assassination attempts on the country’s leaders during their time in office.
In 1921, Takashi Hara, who established Japan’s full-fledged party Cabinet system and was known as the first commoner to become the prime minister, was stabbed to death at Tokyo Station by a young railway worker. Nine years later, Prime Minister Osachi Hamaguchi was attacked by a gunman at Tokyo Station and died of his wounds the following year.
In 1932, a group of armed naval officers stormed the Prime Minister’s Office and shot premier Tsuyoshi Inukai, killing him, in what is now known as the “May 15 incident.”
Abe’s own grandfather, Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi, was stabbed in the thigh in 1960 and severely injured during a reception at the Prime Minister’s Office. That same year, Inejiro Asanuma, then head of the Japan Socialist Party, was fatally stabbed by a 17-year-old rightist while making a speech at a public hall in Hibiya, Tokyo.
In the years that followed, Prime Minister Takeo Miki, Deputy Prime Minister Shin Kanemaru and Prime Minister Morihiro Hokosawa were either attacked or shot in 1975, 1992 and 1994, respectively. They all survived the attacks.
Local-level politicians have also been attacked.
In 1990 — two years after commenting on Emperor Hirohito’s responsibility in World War II — Nagasaki Mayor Hitoshi Motoshima was shot by a senior member of a rightist group.
Yukio Aoshima received a parcel bomb during his time as Tokyo’s governor in 1995. Aoshima was unharmed, but an official of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government was seriously injured.
More recently, Nagasaki Mayor Itcho Ito was campaigning in 2007 when he was shot and killed by a senior member of a crime organization.