A disgruntled worker drove over people at a Mazda factory today, killing one and injuring 10, stunning Japan just two years after a car worker went on a deadly rampage in central Tokyo.
Toshiaki Hikiji, 42, was arrested about an hour later on attempted murder charges after fleeing in his car from Mazda's Ujina plant in Hiroshima Prefecture, south-western Japan, police said.
Japanese media reports said Hikiji was a contract worker who had been let go in April. Mazda Motor spokesman Kotaro Minagawa said the company could not yet confirm any details.
The rampage has revived memories of a stabbing spree in Tokyo's jam-packed electronics shopping district two years ago, also by an angry car worker, that killed seven people when he slammed a truck into a crowd and then stabbed onlookers.
For decades during Japan's modernisation, its major companies guaranteed jobs for life and offered relatively good benefits in return for loyalty.
But carmakers, pinched by cost cutting efforts amid globalisation, are increasingly relying on workers called "haken", who are hired on less attractive contracts than regular workers, often through job-referral companies.
The manufacturers can better respond to changes in market demand with haken workers because they cannot generally dismiss regular employees.
In the 2008 incident, 25-year-old Tomohiro Kato, who worked at a Toyota Motor affiliate, had posted angry messages on the internet about his job and is believed to have carried out the killings in a fit of rage.
Such crimes are rare but rising in number in Japan after years of lacklustre economic growth have widened the gap between the have's and have-not's. Disaffection among marginalised individuals can grow intense because of unrealistic expectations about success.
Japan has extremely strict gun-control laws and its culture encourages conformity and passivity.