Reluctant groom gets five years for buying time with arson

KOFU (Kyodo) A man was sentenced to five years in prison Thursday for setting fire to a hotel to cause his wedding ceremony to be postponed and gain time to decide which woman to choose — his current wife, or the woman he was seeing and had promised to marry.

Tatsuhiko Kawata, 40, was convicted of setting fire in October 2008 to the Risonare Hokuto hotel in the city of Hokuto, Yamanashi Prefecture, at the foot of the Yatsugatake mountain resort.

Kawata was “egoistic and short-sighted,” said presiding Judge Yasushi Watanabe at the Kofu District Court. The judge said there was no room for leniency, rejecting the defense counsel’s argument that the fire caused only minor damage to the hotel and that Kawata regrets his actions.

Watanabe also described Kawata’s actions as extremely dangerous, noting it had forced a number of hotel guests to evacuate.

Prosecutors had sought six years of imprisonment for Kawata, who pleaded guilty to the charges of arson and unauthorized entry to the hotel.

The three-judge panel found that Kawata entered the Risonare Hokuto from an unlocked door in the early hours of Oct. 28, poured about 7 liters of gasoline and set fire with a lighter. There were no casualties, but the fire damaged about 8 sq. meters of the hotel’s walls and floors.

The judge said the defendant could not choose between the two women and so decided to gain some time by setting fire to the hotel to postpone his wedding ceremony.

Kawata, who married his wife in 1994, had been seeing another woman for about three years and had promised to marry her. On the eve of the wedding ceremony with the new bride-to-be, he decided to disrupt the hotel’s operations so the ceremony would be canceled, according to the prosecutors.