Tokyo -- A minivan slammed into pedestrians early Tuesday on a street where people had gathered for New Year's festivities in downtown Tokyo, injuring eight people, police said. The suspect, 21, Kazuhiro Kusakabe, was arrested and being questioned, Tokyo Metropolitan Police said on customary condition of anonymity.
He is suspected of intentionally trying to kill people by driving the small vehicle through the street. NHK TV footage showed a small van with the entire front end smashed and officers and ambulance workers rushing to the scene.
A ninth person was injured after Kusakabe got out of the car and punched him, police said. His condition was not immediately known.
A large tank filled with kerosene was found in the car, police said. The suspect appeared to have planned to set his car on fire, Mainichi newspaper and other Japanese media reported. Police declined to comment on the reports, saying such possible motives were still under investigation.
Investigative sources told the Japan Times that the man said he rammed his vehicle into the crowd "in retaliation for an execution." It was not immediately clear what he was referring to.
The crash occurred early Tuesday on Takeshita Dori, a road well known to tourists and pop culture and fashion fans that runs right by Meiji Shrine in Harajuku, Shibuya ward.
Every New Year's Eve, the train line that includes Harajuku station runs all night, for people welcoming the new year with a shrine visit.
Japan is a relatively crime free nation with strict gun-control laws. In 2008, a man drove his car into a crowd in the popular Akihabara electronic-shopping district, got off and went on a stabbing spree with a knife. Seven people were killed.