The knives, whose blades had been painted pink, were bound to a two-foot-long bar that straddled the school desk of the prince and a neighboring desk, local news media reported, heightening security fears and underlining the vulnerability of a royal family desperately short of male heirs.
Police say Hasegawa confessed to leaving the knives because he “was not satisfied with the imperial system and the succession,” arguing that under that system “Japan won’t get better,” local media reported.
Hasegawa confessed that he intended to stab Hisahito, news outlets reported, but ended up just leaving the knives to let the prince know he had been there. Why the knives were painted pink and bound to a bar was not explained.
Surveillance video showed a man in a blue worker’s uniform, wearing a helmet and a pair of gloves, entering the school shortly before the knives were found. Local media said he had posed as a plumber.
Hisahito and his classmates reportedly were out at a physical education class when the man entered the school. The intruder was able to identify where the prince sits because children have their names on their desks.
After the abdication of 85-year-old Emperor Akihito at the end of April, Hisahito stands second in line to the throne, behind his father, Crown Prince Fumihito, 53, who is the younger brother of the 59-year-old Emperor Naruhito.
Women are not allowed to inherit the throne, making Hisahito the imperial family’s only young heir.
Before Hisahito was born, the government had considered changing the law to allow women to inherit the throne, but it shelved the plan after his birth. It says it will reopen the debate this year.
After the incident, the Education Ministry instructed schools across the country to tighten security, Kyodo News reported, including by adding multiple checkpoints at school gates and other entrances to screen for suspicious individuals.
Akiko Kashiwagi contributed to this report.