Witnesses say man decried Abe's collective defense push before self-immolation

Fiery suicide bid shocks Shinjuku on eve of historic security decision

by Reiji Yoshida and Tomohiro Osaki

Staff Writers

An unidentified man in a black suit tried to commit suicide by setting himself on fire in front of hundreds of people on a bridge near the south exit of JR Shinjuku Station in Tokyo on Sunday afternoon.

Police said the man, who appeared to be in his 60s, was seriously injured but is expected to survive. He was being treated at a nearby hospital, a police spokesman told The Japan Times later in the day.

Just after midday, the man climbed on top of the girders of a white bridge used by pedestrians to cross busy Koshu Kaido Avenue and stayed there for more than an hour, using a loud speaker to address a rapidly growing crowd of onlookers on the bridge and the street below, witnesses said.

Some people tweeted that the man was denouncing Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s drive to reinterpret the war-renouncing Constitution so Japan can legally engage in collective self-defense.

Officials contacted at Shinjuku’s main police station said they could not confirm what the man said.

When police officers and firefighters tried to persuade the man to come down, he poured a liquid, likely gasoline, over his body and set himself on fire, a security guard who witnessed the incident told The Japan Times.

“He was engulfed in flames. Firefighters immediately doused him with water and the man fell” from the girders, said the guard, who only identified himself by his family name of Yamashiro.

Online video of the incident shows the burning man standing as he pours something over his head and back, and then crouching down. A firefighter then climbs a ladder to pull him down, spreading bigger flames.

After the fire was extinguished, the man was taken off the bridge and down to the road, which links the station’s south entrance to a shopping area on the other side. Several police officers then wrapped him in a blue plastic sheet and carried him away, Yamashiro said.

Crowds of pedestrians near the station — one of the busiest areas in downtown Tokyo — gawked as the situation developed.

“Everybody who happened to be there stopped to watch what was happening. The moment the man set himself on fire, the audience burst into screams, and we were all left in total shock,” said Yuto Ishida, 19-year-old college student who witnessed the fire.

The man appeared to be carrying a big bottle, and Ishida said he first thought he was merely drunk.

Please be warned that this eyewitness video footage of the incident posted on YouTube is graphic in nature.

  • Uchujin

    “Officials contacted at Shinjuku’s main police station said they could not confirm what the man said.” LMFAO hundreds of eye witnesses already confirmed EXACTLY what he said. To try to deny what this was about is at best disingenuous and at worst an insult to the word “journalism”.

    • Jamie Bakeridge

      All the Western media are reporting exactly what he said!

      • Gordon Graham

        What did he say…Ouch, that’s hot!

    • Really? “EXACTLY what he said”? Really? Got a link to a news source that shows his EXACT (verbatim) words in Japanese? Oh, you don’t, merely a summary and gist of what he said based on people in a 88dB noise and commotion area attempting to hear a man 20m high in the air with a mini/micro loudspeaker, eh? That’s what I thought.

      What the police said was accurate and responsible: they did not have a lucid recording of the man’s words, and they merely had a rough summary / gist / paraphrase of what he said. It’s not about denying what happened. It’s about being precise and not claiming somebody said something until they have direct evidence.

      • Uchujin

        Fair point about the police I suppose.Better as the fine upstanding beyond reproach organization that is the Tokyo Police to err on the side of caution.
        I wasn`t there and I`m assuming you weren`t either so I`ll assume your dB figures are estimates.
        I would think a full and complete transcript of this man`s words yesterday are unlikely to appear. He probably should have left a note.
        I think it is fair to say that eye witnesses have given a reasonable (tho not verbatim) account of what was said.
        To downplay or ignore (I`m looking at you NHK) the political aspects of this in the domestic media whilst the rest of the world is reporting it in a far more complete fashion makes Japanese media and the Japanese government look (with some good reason) bad in the eyes of the world.
        People generally not set fire to themselves with out some deeply held convictions and a feeling that they have exhausted other forms of protest.

      • Gordon Graham

        Some lunatic set himself on fire and you want to quibble over what he said?

  • Paul Johnny Lynn

    Having inculcated the people with an anti-war sentiment for the last 60 + years it’s not surprising some people feel strongly about Abe’s attempt to now change that.

  • Gordon Graham

    Newspapers are supposed to make money not give us information.

  • Robertale

    The guy that burned himself was a leftist and was supposed to die looking at the facts from that day. People does not give flowers or leave flowers on the spot if that person is alive. And the flowers were given just right after he got pulled over and sent to the hospital, which just proves it. The many people that left the flowers were also leftists, which they just wanted some attention.

  • As much as I am for the ability to form military pacts with allies, especially in times where China is slowly encroaching on everyone’s territory, I don’t trust the powers that be (or generally any prospective powers that will be in the foreseeable future) with this ability. I can only see them making things even worse.

    And as much as Vietnam needs and deserves a powerful local ally right now, Japan has demonstrated that it can’t even run its own government domestically, with endless debt and spending backed up by endless political evasions about the source of the country’s economic problems. And now they want to take that track record of fine judgement and apply to international military conflicts?

    How about no.