Man arrested over shinkansen arson in Okayama


An elderly man was arrested Friday on suspicion of starting a fire on seat aboard a shinkansen that was traveling through Okayama Prefecture, police said.

The man, who identified himself as Yasuhiro Watanabe, 80, of Kobe, was arrested at JR Okayama Station and admitted to the charge, police said.

Watanabe was sitting in a window seat in the front car of an eight-car train bound for Kagoshima-Chuo Station in Kagoshima Prefecture when he used a lighter to ignite papers on a seat at around 11:10 a.m., just before the train was due to stop at Okayama.

A man who boarded the train after it stopped used a bottle of tea to put the fire out, the police said, adding that none of the approximately 350 passengers was injured.

West Japan Railway Co. (JR West) said it canceled the Mizuho No. 615 bullet train’s run and that other trains experienced delays that affected about 4,600 passengers.

The incident took place on the Sanyo Shinkansen Line linking Shin-Osaka with Hakata, Fukuoka Prefecture. The train was scheduled to travel to Kagoshima-Chuo Station on the Kyushu Shinkansen Line.

“I never thought such an incident would occur in Okayama. I was scared,” a 78-year-old Nagasaki woman said in the station.

In 2015, a 71-year-old man died after setting himself on fire on a shinkansen in Kanagawa Prefecture. The resulting carbon monoxide killed a woman, and 26 other passengers on board were injured.

The most serious bullet train incident to date prompted railways to step up security by installing cameras to constantly monitor passenger cars.