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Man killed in bullet train knife attack was 'mild-mannered, cheerful'

Ichiro Kojima, who allegedly fatally stabbed one passenger and injured two others on a shinkansen bullet train, is seen in the city of Odawara, Kanagawa Prefecture, on June 10, 2018. (Mainichi)

TOKYO -- A 38-year-old man killed by a knife-wielding attacker on a bullet train while trying to save other passengers was a "mild-mannered and cheerful" person, his boss tearfully told reporters on June 11.

"I'm deeply saddened and sorry to hear of his sudden death. This sort of thing should never happen," said Isamu Yamamoto, 48, a manager at chemical manufacturer BASF Japan where the victim, Kotaro Umeda, had worked.

According to Yamamoto, Umeda had belonged to a division handling raw plastic materials, where he had worked to develop new uses for chemical materials and had served as a sales manager. He apparently had a good reputation among his clients.

Umeda had traveled to Tokyo and Yokohama on business three or four times a month while working at BASF Japan's Osaka office. On June 7 and 8, just before the incident occurred, he took part in a training session at the company's Yokohama office, Yamamoto said.

"During the training session, I told him, 'See you next week.' As always, he was mild-mannered and cheerful. I still can't believe he died," Yamamoto said, wiping tears from his eyes.

Umeda suffered dozens of wounds, including what is thought to be a fatal cut about 18 centimeters long, an investigative source disclosed. Kanagawa Prefectural Police believe that the alleged attacker, 22-year-old Ichiro Kojima from Okazaki, Aichi Prefecture, stabbed Umeda with intent to kill. He has been referred to public prosecutors on suspicion of murder, and investigators are probing motives for the attack.

Hiroki Ishida, president of BASF Japan, said on June 11, "He was trying to save female passengers, which was very brave. We are very proud of him."

(Japanese original by Mami Yamada, Tokyo City News Department, Tsumuki Nakamura and Shotaro Kinoshita, Yokohama Bureau)

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