• Kyodo, Staff Report

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Debts may have been the motive for the suicide of a 71-year-old man who set himself on fire aboard a bullet train last week, because he had been repaying loans for nearly a decade until last year, his sister said.

“I think the reason for his suicide was his debts. Perhaps that sent him over the edge,” Haruo Hayashizaki’s older sister in Iwate Prefecture said Saturday.

On Tuesday, in the worst incident to ever take place on a bullet train, Hayashizaki poured gasoline over his body and burned himself to death, filling the train’s cars with smoke that left one female passenger dead and injured 26 others. Police are investigating the suicide as arson.

His sister, who is in her 70s, said around 200 bills that appeared to be Hayashizaki’s debt payments were found among his belongings after his brother brought them back from the deceased’s home in Tokyo after his death.

The bills show monthly bank transfers ranging from ¥7,000 to more than ¥10,000 had been made to consumer loan accounts and that transfers of ¥70,000 to over ¥100,000 had been made to private accounts.

His sister said she had never heard about his suspected mountain of debt.

“I was really surprised,” she said. “I don’t have a lot of money but I could have lent him at least a small amount.”

Hayashizaki had also hinted about committing suicide several days before setting himself ablaze, during a telephone conversation with his sister around June 20.

“I cannot go on living on a monthly pension of ¥120,000. But it’s not like I can commit suicide in front of the Diet,” she quoted him as saying.

The sister also voiced sorrow over the death of Yoshiko Kuwahara, 52, who reportedly died of carbon monoxide poisoning from the smoke aboard the train.

“I am so sorry for the (woman) who has died,” the sister said in tears.

According to the property managers of his apartment in Suginami Ward, Hayashizaki failed to pay his rent on the day he died.

He had earlier complained to a neighbor that his pension was too meager to support himself and called a member of the Suginami Ward Assembly to seek help with his financial problems in mid-June, telling them he was unable to pay his rent, they said.