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Friday, February 6, 1998 Published at 13:01 GMT


Japanese tackle teenage knife attacks
image: [ Butterfly knives have become fashionable in Japanese classrooms ]
Butterfly knives have become fashionable in Japanese classrooms

In Japan, where violent crime is relatively rare and schoolchildren are normally thought of as disciplined, there is growing panic over an alarming rise in the number of knife attacks by young people.

The Education Minister is to meet the heads of education boards on Friday to discuss how to combat the trend for carrying knives in school.

The BBC's Juliet Hindell reports from Japan on the knives debate gripping the country (3'17")
It follows a spate of attacks, including the murder last month of a 26-year-old teacher. She was stabbed to death by her 13-year-old student with a butterfly knife after she told him off for being late.

The shock of her murder soon turned to panic when a 15-year-old stabbed a policeman to get his gun earlier this week. It was followed by a rash of other knife attacks by teenagers.

The Japanese media has sensationalised these incidents, declaring a national state of emergency. But the hysteria does seem to have some grounding - in the past year, violent crimes by minors have risen by 30%.

The law bans young people from carrying knives with blades more than six inches long, but it is not illegal to buy them.

The government is now considering a total ban on the sale of knives to minors as well as the right to search schoolbags.

[ image: Many schoolboys think it's cool to carry knives]
Many schoolboys think it's cool to carry knives
Some point the finger of blame at violent TV programmes. Knives, especially butterfly knives with blades that retract from a double handle, have become fashionable items at school since they were featured last year in a television drama, Gift.

The pop star and actor Takuya Kimura used a butterfly knife last year in the series, which showed characters proving their bravery by stabbing a table between their spread fingers.

Others say it is the school system that is at fault, with its emphasis on exams and discipline.

"There is so much pressure," said Yasuhiro Watanabe of the Police Juvenile Crime Division, "and the value system is very confusing for them. They don't see anything good about working hard, getting to university and going to 'good' enterprises. They don't see much hope in their future."

These latest crimes are likely to provoke a radical rethink about the way Japanese children are brought up, according to the BBC's correspondent in Japan, Juliet Hindell.

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02 Feb 98 | Despatches
Japanese police call for knife ban

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