Thursday, October 02, 2008

Man Kills 15 Instead of Self

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: If Japan is going to continue to be the world leader in annual suicides, then people have to stop being so careless about how they off themselves. Early Tuesday morning, a man started a fire in Osaka with the intention of killing himself. Instead, he survived and the fire killed fifteen other people.

[the story]

Ogawa Kazuhiro allegedly became "tired of life" and set fire to a newspaper in his private room at a mangakisa called Cats. Then, as his room filled with smoke, he claims he became frightened and fled the scene. Meanwhile, fifteen people Mr. Ogawa had probably never met before (and who were probably sleeping), died from carbon monoxide poisoning and burns.

English news articles vary in their description of the business where this crime took place, with labels ranging from "video rental shop" to "adult video theater." From the description I saw on the TV news here this evening, Cats is (or was, until its fiery baptism) a relatively typical Japanese comic/video/relaxation center. These mangakisa are routinely used as hotels by businessmen, as they tend to offer cheap overnight rates and often have private rooms with comfy reclining chairs. They also tend to be needlessly labyrinthine, and allow their guests to smoke, making for some real grand fire hazards.

I patronized a mangakisa several times during my first six months in Japan, when I had no internet connection at home. But I never tried the private room type, so when I went, I had to breathe the secondhand smoke of everyone around my while I checked my email and read the news. I guess I should count my blessings; at least I didn't die there.

Mr. Ogawa has been arrested on charges of arson and manslaughter.

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