It was early in the morning, about 7:45 a.m., and children were lined up for their bus to Caritas Elementary, a privately-run Christian school.
Police said the man attacked first in the vicinity of a nearby convenience store, killing Satoshi Oyama, the father of one of the children. He then headed toward the bus stop, attacking a woman on the way and then school girls in the line, one after the other. Eleven-year-old Hanako Kuribayashi died from her wounds.
Police found the attacker lying on the ground near the bus stop, unresponsive and with stab wounds to the neck. They identified him as Ryuichi Iwasaki, 51. He lived four kilometers from the site.
Vice Principal of Caritas Elementary School, Satoru Shitori, said at a news conference that he was helping children board their buses when he heard screams coming from the end of the line. He said he saw a man holding what appeared to be kitchen knives, one in each hand, attacking the children without speaking and then running toward the bus stop.
He said he examined the children's wounds while calling police and advised about 20 children with no injuries to board their buses.
Shitori said he then checked on the children lying on the ground. He said he saw about five of the wounded and then about 15 other children taking shelter in a nearby convenience store.
Hanako Kuribayashi lived in the Tokyo suburb of Tama City. A neighbor described her as a charming girl who always stopped for a chat when they met. She said she was shocked by the news of her death. She said she exchanged greetings with the girl's parents almost daily and could not imagine how they must feel.
The 39-year-old male victim, Satoshi Oyama, was an official with the Japanese Foreign Ministry and a Burmese language specialist. He joined the ministry in 2004 and worked for a time at the Japanese Embassy in Myanmar. When Aung San Suu Kyi visited Japan in 2013, Oyama accompanied her to Kyoto. That same year, he acted as interpreter for then foreign minister Fumio Kishida in a meeting with the foreign minister of Myanmar on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York.
Oyama's wife issued a statement through her lawyer saying she was deeply saddened by the sudden death of her husband. She asked news media to respect her privacy and refrain from contacting her.
A former classmate of the killer said he was just like any other boy. Other elementary and junior high school students who knew him said he was quick tempered and wild, often causing problems for the teachers. They said they were not surprised by his violent attack.
Police are investigating for a possible motive. They said on Wednesday they entered the home in Kawasaki City where Iwasaki lived with his relatives, both in their 80s.
People in the neighborhood of the attack mourned the victims, laying flowers and other offerings at the site.
A teacher in her 30s came to offer prayers. She said she saw the children waiting for the bus every day and that it was heart-wrenching to hear about the attack.
A 39 year-old man with a 12-year-old son said he was afraid something like this could happen again. He said adults must make more effort to protect young children in the community.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called an emergency meeting of the relevant cabinet ministers on Wednesday and instructed police to monitor school routes and strengthen their patrols. He also called for upgrading systems for sharing information from schools and police about suspicious persons.