No-more-knives rule comes after bullet train slashing in which passenger lost his life.
Next spring will mark the end of an era, as Emperor Akihito is scheduled to abdicate his royal position and bring a close to the Heisei period. But there’s another turning point of Japanese history coming up, as 2019 will also be the end of the era of carrying unbound knives on trains.
This week, Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport announced the ratification of a new ministerial ordinance regarding the carrying of bladed instruments on trains. The tightening of regulations follows an incident last June in which a man on the Shinkansen bullet train attacked three of his fellow passengers with a knife, leaving one dead and two injured.
Currently, the carrying of bladed objects under six centimeters in length in public is largely unrestricted in Japan (with certain exceptions depending on the exact type of blade). However, starting in April the new governmental regulations will require passengers on all trains to cover the edge’s tip in plastic or cardboard, wrap the blade in a covering such as newspaper, and keep the item within a bag or other container for the duration of their ride.
Oddly enough, the ordinance carries no criminal penalty for non-compliance. However, the initiative will make it easier for rail operators to forcibly remove passengers carrying unbound blades. While the current Railway Operation Act allows for the removal of passengers with “items that could pose a danger to other passengers,” such as explosives or incendiary objects, the ministry’s ordinance specifically indicates unbound blades as qualifying as “posing a danger to other passengers.”
The ordinance covers all manner of bladed instruments, including not only craft or cooking knives, but scissors and saws as well. The new rules go into effect on April 1, so mark that date down on your calendar if you like to whittle, chop vegetables, do papercraft, or make furniture to kill time during your commute.