Photo/IllutrationThe "koban" police station where a police officer was stabbed is seen on June 17 in Suita, Osaka Prefecture. (Satoru Ogawa)

The opening scene of Akira Kurosawa's 1949 film "Nora Inu" (Stray Dog) starts with this line: "What? A pickpocket stole your pistol?!"

The service weapon of a young detective of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department is stolen in a crowded bus. Before long, it is used in a series of armed robberies.

The detective, played by Toshiro Mifune (1920-1997), embarks on a frantic search for the thief and the gun. His wild eyes are just like those of a feral stray dog.

At the time of the theft, the gun is loaded with seven rounds.

They are discharged in the course of the robberies, until only three are left. Will the detective catch the perpetrator before they are used up?

In real life, a police officer was stabbed on June 16 in front of a "koban" police station in Suita, Osaka Prefecture. His service revolver, loaded with five bullets, was stolen.

One gunshot was reportedly heard in the neighborhood. But thankfully, no one was hurt, and the suspect was apprehended about 24 hours later in the hills near a residential area.

On the day of the crime, however, frightened residents remained huddled in their homes, shutters closed. Many must have spent a sleepless night.

Even after the suspect's arrest, a local woman was quoted in the evening edition of The Asahi Shimbun as saying, "My children are still scared. Until things settle down, I want to be at their side as much as possible."

Koban stations serve to protect local citizens. But wherever there is a police officer, there is a loaded gun. And lately, attacks on police officers and thefts of their guns have become more common.

One solution to this unwelcome trend is the introduction of a new type of holster that renders it harder for assailants to grab the weapons. However, it had yet to be issued to the koban at Suita. What could have caused this delay?

Kurosawa's film depicted not only the armed robberies themselves, but also the dark sides of society that motivated the perpetrator.

I wonder what motivated the suspect in the June 16 stabbing of the police officer.

--The Asahi Shimbun, June 18

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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.