Many movie-goers delight in the escapism of martial arts. Watching athletic antagonists wielding swords while undertaking death-defying acrobatics, is a popular slice of cinema escapism. However, it is somewhat more intimidating to come across a samurai warrior in real life.
But this is the situation that occurred on Singapore's bustling Mass Rapid Transport (MRT) rail network in Dec last year. As commuters boarded their usual train, expecting an unremarkable commute, they were somewhat taken aback when a man clambered aboard wielding a samurai sword. Having jumped the ‘fare gate' at Paya Lebar station, he joined the westbound train, leaving a trail of bemused onlookers in his wake.
According to an official MRT spokesman: “the male passenger was apprehended at 12:45 PM around Bugis MRT station and the incident is now under police investigation”.
As with any dramatic incident in the modern age, the unfolding events were captured on mobile phones. A bank executive who happened to witness the incident recorded a brief video of the samurai warrior exiting, perhaps to do battle with evil forces at some pre-arranged destination?
Naturally, the sight of someone in possession of a large fearsome-looking blade in somewhere as densely-populated as Singapore never goes unnoticed for very long. Thankfully the culprit was soon being tailed by three transit security officers, hanging onto his every suspicious movement. Witnesses described the strange man calmly chatting to his pursuers; although what was being discussed, or in what language, was less apparent. Apparently this sense of calm was strained to say the least, with bystanders describing the blade carrying individual as becoming increasingly agitated. Eventually he drew his weapon and began pointing it towards the uniformed men.
He was described as being middle-aged, and slightly overweight. His hair was dyed and permed, and he was sporting the traditional Japanese ‘hakama' garment.
During their fraught experience, none of the 30 or so passengers sharing his train compartment said anything to him. The mysterious case came to its conclusion when the weird swordsman was finally apprehended by the police. When he clambered off the train at Dhoby Grant station, it appeared that the officers, who had perhaps been adopting a ‘softly softly' approach for fear of unsettling the antagonist beside so many passers-by, decided to take action.
Again, in similar fashion to the recent disturbances in Little India, the reason this particular incident has caused waves in social media is because of its unique, isolated nature. Singaporeans are used to seeing many colourful and good natured people during their daily life, so a lone idiot brandishing an offensive weapon naturally sticks out like a sore thumb.