National / Crime & Legal

Shinkansen suicide victim failed to pay rent, tried to buy gas near home

Kyodo, Staff Report

A 71-year-old Tokyo man who died after setting himself on fire on a speeding shinkansen train had failed to pay his rent on the day he died, according to the property managers of his apartment in Suginami Ward.

Haruo Hayashizaki, who had complained to a neighbor that his pension was too meager to support himself, called a member of the Suginami Ward assembly seeking help with his financial problems in mid-June, telling them he was unable to pay his rent, they said.

His rent for June and July was due on Tuesday, but the payment wasn’t made.

A neighbor of Hayashizaki’s said he had repeatedly complained that he only received a pension of ¥240,000 ($1,960) every two months, despite having made payments for 35 years.

Police said Thursday that Hayashizaki tried to buy gasoline in Kanagawa Ward, Yokohama, on the day before his self-immolation on the train. But clerks at a gas station near his apartment refused to sell it to him.

The police also searched his home on Wednesday and seized a 20-liter metal container used to carry gasoline, which fire department officials have confirmed was the substance he used to set himself ablaze on the train.

A 52-year-old woman who was unrelated to Hayashizaki also died on the train due to smoke inhalation. Twenty-six other passengers aboard the Osaka-bound train were injured in the Tuesday incident.

Public broadcaster NHK reported that Hayashizaki, who boarded the Nozomi 225 train at Tokyo Station, had bought a ticket to cover fare from there to Kakegawa Station in Shizuoka Prefecture. The ticket was found in a pocket in his pants.

Since Kakegawa was not among the planned stops for the Nozomi train, police suspect Hayashizaki boarded the train intending to kill himself, NHK said.

He bought the ticket on Monday at the JR Nishiogikubo Station near his home.

On Thursday, Central Japan Railway Co. said it had changed the wording on its electronic boards to urge passengers to alert train employees if they see any “suspicious acts.” Previously, such signs only noted “suspicious objects.”

Hayashizaki reportedly wandered around the train car on Tuesday and talked to other passengers, saying things such as “you should run away too” before setting himself on fire.