The Assassination of Inejiro Asanuma

On October 12, 1960, Inejiro Asanuma, a socialist politician in Japan, was assassinated with a sword wielded by Otoya Yamaguchi, a 17 year old Japanese nationalist. This happened during a televised political debate for the upcoming House of Representatives elections in Tokyo.

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This picture was taken by photographer Yasushu Nagao, for which he later won a Pulitzer Prize. It shows the moment at which Otoya Yamaguchi withdraws his blade from the midsection of Inejiro Asanuma and is about to follow up with a second thrust.

Yamaguchi used a yoroi-dōshi in this attack.

The yoroi-dōshi is an extra thick tanto style blade, similar to a shortsword or long knife. It was specifically designed for piercing armor and for stabbing in close quarters combat where a longer blade would have been less effective.

Yamaguchi ran onto the stage and stabbed Asanuma in the left side between his ribs at about the height of his elbow. The assassin was quickly swarmed, grappled to the group and arrested. Asanuma died at the scene. Yamaguchi committed suicide while in police custody some time later. 

The grayscale 1960’s footage will give you some indication on how quick this attack actually was (the attack takes place at 1:12). I think the photographer was just lucky. It also gives you some idea of what a nightmare a secret service agent or bodyguard faces with such a narrow reaction window against a committed attacker.

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