The Japanese public is still in shock over the murders of seven of their compatriots -- five men and two women -- at the hands of jihadists. The killings took place on the evening of July 1, at a restaurant in an area of Dhaka, Bangladesh believed to be secure.
Also included in the 22 victims were nine Italians and several other nationalities, making it clear that the militants, young Bangladeshi males, had intentionally singled out non-Muslim foreigners.
The key word describing this type of attack, which Japan's vernacular media has raised repeatedly in its reportage of the tragedy, is "sofuto taagetto" (soft target).
Does the Islamic State and its followers have something similarly nasty planned for Japan, a country with no shortage of soft targets? In its headline, Yukan Fuji (July 7) admonishes those who may brush aside such concerns, asserting "Taigan no kaji de wa nai" (it's not a fire on the opposite bank, i.e., not somebody else's problem).
Should determined militants succeed in making their way into Japan (or possibly belong to sleeper cells that have already been set up here), what sort of soft targets would they aim for?
"Typically militants have aimed at soft targets from some time ago, like the disco they bombed in Bali, Indonesia in 2002," says Buntaro Kuroi, author of the Kodansha book "Islamic Terrorists." "More recently alerts have been raised over terrorism throughout the world, and attacks against soft targets have increased owing to of their vulnerability."
Other examples of this, the newspaper reports, would be the killings last month of 49 people at a gay night club in Orlando, Florida, although that incident is now believed to have been a "lone wolf" attack with only tenuous ties to a jihadist group -- making it unlike the coordinated attacks by jihadists on a theater, restaurant and football stadium last November in Paris that resulted in some 130 deaths.
No place, therefore, can be completely ruled out as a target, and that includes Japan.
"Unlike the U.S. or Europe, it's extremely difficult to obtain handguns or semiautomatic rifles in Japan," points out Mitsuhiro Sera, a writer specializing in military affairs. "What we need to be on guard against are acts of terror utilizing explosive devices that can easily be synthesized by a person with a solid knowledge of chemistry.
"I suppose the places militants would be likely to target are concert halls, music facilities or fireworks displays -- that is, highly crowded events where movement is confined."
And needless to say, during July and August, outdoor festivals and other activities throughout the country will attract crowds numbering in the tens of thousands.
Sera also sees the need to boost the security for the shinkansen and other transport. In June 2015, an elderly pensioner committed suicide by setting himself ablaze on a bullet train, also resulting in the death of a female passenger from smoke inhalation. This incident should have awakened the operators of the railway to the trains' vulnerabilities. Ideally, baggage inspections should be conducted before boarding; but security proposals were rejected as being too costly and troublesome.
Unfortunately, terrorists are learning as they go, constantly refining their tactics to achieve the greatest possible damage.
"Recently attacks have been conspicuous in which first a bomb is detonated to cause people to panic and then a second one set to detonate along the route where they would be likely to evacuate," Sera points out. "As we're presently in a period in which terrorism is burgeoning, we can no longer disregard the notion that they won't happen in Japan.
"People need to remind themselves that potential dangers could be lurking anyplace," Sera warns.© Japan Today