Woman killed in Japan train fire suicide 'on peace pilgrimage'

2015-07-01 08:41
File: AP

File: AP

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Tokyo - A woman killed when a pensioner deliberately set himself on fire aboard a moving bullet train in Japan was on her way to a shrine to give thanks for her "peaceful life", it emerged on Wednesday.

Yoshiko Kuwahara died after 71-year-old Haruo Hayashizaki doused himself in fuel and sparked the blaze on the busy 300km per-hour train.

"Today I'm visiting Ise shrine to give thanks for my calm, peaceful life," 52-year-old Kuwahara wrote on her Facebook page on Tuesday morning as she boarded the super-fast Nozomi bullet train at Yokohama.

Ise shrine is one of the most sacred spots in Japan's native Shintoism, and a major tourist draw.

The train, packed with more than 800 passengers, was travelling from Tokyo to the commercial hub of Osaka when witnesses reported a blast in the front of the first carriage.

Disastrous consequences

Plumes of choking, white smoke sent passengers fleeing down the train as it screeched to an emergency stop.

Reports said the driver rushed back into the smoke-filled carriage and tried to douse Hayashizaki's still-burning body.

Footage from inside the train shot immediately after it stopped showed smut-stained passengers blinking and coughing as they crawled through thick smoke to the exits, some clutching small children.

As well as the two deaths, 26 people were hurt in the incident, authorities said.

Police on Wednesday raided the dead man's Tokyo home on the hunt for clues about his motive.

The Sponichi tabloid reported Hayashizaki, who lived alone, had complained to neighbours he "would not be able to live properly because his pension was small".

But the reason for choosing such a public suicide - one that could have had disastrous consequences for those on board the bullet train - remained a mystery.

Overwhelming sympathy

Self-immolations are relatively rare in Japan, a country where the culture of political protest is subdued, although there were two attempts - one successful - in 2014.

Both were men apparently protesting what they saw as the "militarisation" of Japan under nationalist Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Hayashizaki's dramatic suicide has shocked Japan, where acts of public violence are extremely rare, and has led to calls for stepped up security on the vast bullet train network.

But many members of the public were reacting with overwhelming sympathy for 52-year-old Kuwahara, an innocent bystander caught up in someone else's violence.

On her profile, Kuwahara, a chiropractor, said her dream was "to become a person who treats people's minds and bodies".

"I'd like offer my heartfelt prayers. Why did you have to get wrapped up in this? It's terrible," one of 2 500 messages left on her Facebook page said.

"I'm really sorry you were involved in an incident caused by a selfish person. I hope there will be no such painful event in the future," another wrote.

Read more on:    japan

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.