Victims of the AKB48 fan-meet slasher attack includes the J-pop girl group's members Anna Iriyama (L) and Rina Kawaei (R)
Tokyo - Two members of Japanese girl group AKB48 were hospitalised after being attacked by a man wielding a saw at one of the band's regular meet-the-fans events, the police said yesterday.
Rina Kawaei, 19, and Anna Iriyama, 18, received emergency surgery for broken bones in their right hands after the man attacked them with a 50cm saw at the event in the north-eastern city of Takizawa in Iwate prefecture.
They had cuts on their arms and heads and Iriyama also suffered cuts on the face, the media said.
"The surgery ended successfully and their condition is stable," their manager said. "They should be able to leave hospital tomorrow."
A male staff member had cuts on his hand.
Police arrested a 24-year-old, unemployed high school dropout - identified as Satoru Umeta - for attempted murder after the event was interrupted by screams of "Stop!" and "No!"
Reports said the attack came after a mini-concert on Sunday afternoon as fans were lining up to shake hands with performers inside booths.
Kawaei and Iriyama were in the same booth when a man in the queue suddenly produced a saw, the Yomiuri daily said.
Fans told Japanese media they heard a shriek, apparently from one of the young women, saying: "Stop it!" Some of the 100 or so staff and security guards at the event pounced on the attacker and held him until the police arrived, reports said.
The incident left the country stunned at the extremely rare violent crime. "This sort of thing is unimaginable," one fan told Japanese television. "I'm in shock." Another described how Kawaei was covered in blood when she was taken away by medics to a waiting ambulance.
"We have started questioning the suspect this morning to know details, including his motive," a detective with Iwate prefectural police told Agence France-Presse.
There were no bag checks, and fans have said most of the group's events have only cursory checks at best, prompting newspapers to call for tighter security. The incident featured on several newspaper front pages and TV shows.
AKB48, rated by Guinness as the world's biggest female pop group, is known for its high "kawaii", or cuteness, quotient, and all its members are in their teens or early 20s.
Fans vote each year to determine 64 of the most popular girls from a 237-member pool, who then rotate in and out of four main troupes and several affiliated groups, based on their popularity.
The "AKB" in the group's name is a reference to Akihabara, Tokyo's high-tech mecca, where it has a theatre. They are also popular overseas, with a sister group based in Jakarta.
A Tokyo concert by the group last night was cancelled, as were other meet-and-greet sessions, their management company said on its website.
Fans are currently voting for the girl they want to lead the collective for the next year, using ballot slips available only with the purchase of their newest single. The results will be announced in a nationally televised extravaganza on June 7.
This article was first run in The Straits Times newspaper on May 27, 2014. For similar stories, go to sph.straitstimes.com/premium/singapore. You will not be able to access the Premium section of The Straits Times website unless you are already a subscriber.