It was a quiet Sunday afternoon in the early summer, albeit on a weekend marked by many protests against Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s controversial collective self-defense law changes. But the ordinariness and calm of the shopping in central Tokyo was broken by a shocking suicide (and at least, suicide attempt).

man shinjuku south exist self immolate burn death protest abe shinzo collective self defense law suicide death

At around 1-2pm a man sat on the girders above a pedestrian footbridge near Shinjuku Station’s busy South Exit area with a megaphone and two bottles containing dark liquid. He wore a suit and sat on a small mat. He spoke into the megaphone for some time, announcing that he was going to kill himself in protest at the government’s push to involve Japan more in war.

man shinjuku south exist self immolate burn death protest abe shinzo collective self defense law suicide death

He then apparently set himself on fire, as graphic pictures on social media are allegedly showing.

man shinjuku south exist self immolate burn death protest abe shinzo collective self defense law suicide death

man shinjuku south exist self immolate burn death protest abe shinzo collective self defense law suicide death

man shinjuku south exist self immolate burn death protest abe shinzo collective self defense law suicide death

Details are very fuzzy at this time. He seemed to use some kind of gasoline or alcohol, and judging by his appearance from photos looks like he was in his sixties. This means he would remember Japan’s previous logistical involvement in America’s war in Vietnam in previous decades, which prompted mass protests and also at least one similar act self-immolation. And it goes without saying that this protester’s public suicide recalls those of the Buddhist monks in Vietnam in the 1960’s.

At the time of writing nothing has been reported in the mainstream media nor have any details about the victim’s name been announced. It is unknown if the man survived, though he was filmed being extinguished by the fire services after he fell off the girders onto the bridge below.

Update: The man (still unnamed) apparently survived and was taken to hospital with severe burns, but still conscious. The incident got some attention from mainstream media outlets but considering the publicness of the suicide attempt, not as much as we might expect.

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33 Comments

  • riccyjay June 29, 2014

    I witnessed this. He was sitting reading perfectly calmly from some papers he had with him in a bag and occasionally drinking from a bottle. He spoke to the police officers on several occasions – seemingly in a reassuring way. Inflatable mattresses were set up under the bridge, and soft mats on the walkway. However, when fire officers produced a ladder and prepared to scale the girders, the man – still sitting – poured a bottle of something (petrol?) over his head. He then stood, reached into his bag for a lighter, and set himself on fire. At that point I had to look away, but it appeared as if some of the waiting officers may have got caught in the inflammation. Tragic and horrifying.

  • William
    William (Post author) June 29, 2014

    @riccyjay

    Thanks for sharing your experience. Right now details are very lacking so witness reports are invaluable.

  • SueSue June 29, 2014

    I want to cry ……

  • Richard Lloyd Parry June 29, 2014

    I’d be very glad to hear directly from anyone who witnessed this.

    richard.lloydparry@thetimes.co.uk

    Thanks.

    Richard Lloyd Parry
    Asia Editor
    The Times

  • Scott June 29, 2014

    I saw the aftermath of this as they were putting out the fire. My friend who i met there said he saw it and what he described is as you mentioned. He was very shaken up by it.

  • Alita June 29, 2014

    He did survive. It’s in the news. He was taken to the hospital and is conscious. The police are just waiting for him to recover to file the numerous charges for crimes he broke (public endangerment, property endangerment, attempted arson, etc etc)

    And tragic, this ain’t tragic. This is some idiot making a scene that will accomplish nothing and seriously, did we suddenly move to Tibet?

    If you are moved or crying over this, you may need to get your head checked as well, I bet this guy is seriously regretting not dying at this point.

  • Mushboom June 29, 2014

    This is not how you burning man, Japan!

  • Roman June 29, 2014

    Alita, this topic is beyond your understanding.
    Please, refrain to show your lack of humanity, sensitivity and intelect.

    You also don’t have what that man does have, to do any action as serious as the one he did.
    You don’t even understand the motivation.

    Before making public how ignorant you are, better read, get information and educate yourself.

    Then, and only then, your strong points maybe have the minimum basis to be considered valid in a humans conversation.

    Please, go back to basic school and re-start again your education, also as a human being.

    Your refference to Tibet, putting down decades of crimes against the humanity, is another example of the need on you to read, read and learn.

    Make yourself, and to us, a favor and keep silent if you have nothing really important to say.

  • Ananasboat June 29, 2014

    I’ll bet everyone here that someone like Alita is proud of their ignorance. The pain and heart sickness that this man must have felt at the idea of returning to the prewar Japan, which was a dark time in their history, was so great that he felt he had to do this rather than see his country descend again. Japan has come a long way but is recently sliding back to their more conservative policies that the youth are allowing out of ignorance. This man was desperately sad, and Alita said he was only making a scene.

  • Me June 29, 2014

    It’s not returning to prewar Japan since they won’t have the same military they did before the war ended.

    “Proponents argue that Japan’s present limitations are too strict, so Japanese forces on overseas UN peacekeeping missions, for example, cannot protect other forces they are working with if they are attacked, thus severely hampering Japan’s usefulness as a regional US alliance partner. They point out that Japan is the only nation in the world that refuses to exercise a right that is allowed in the UN charter, the 1952 San Francisco Peace Treaty and the US-Japan Security Alliance.

    Those in favor of the change also argue that allowing the exercise of the right to collective defense will come with a series of restrictions that make nonsense of claims that Japan is rearming.

    In a May 7 meeting, the advisory panel is reported to have added a sixth “brake” or condition that must be met before a decision to exercise the right is taken.

    Under these conditions, Japan will consider exercising the right only when:

    ■A close partner is subject to an illegal attack.

    ■ Such a use of force against the partner poses a clear and major threat to Japan’s security.

    ■ The partner has made a clear request that Japan come to its aid.

    ■ Japan has the express permission of any other country allowing its forces to pass through.

    ■The use is approved by the Diet.

    ■The sixth condition is now understood to be that the level of the use of force exercised is judged to be both necessary and proportional by the NSC.”

  • Me June 29, 2014

    I know everyone thinks this will become a “get an inch and take a mile” situation, however, I doubt we’ll see a full military. Anyway, the reason this is being done is because of the trouble China has been making (their fighter planes in Japanese air field) and the fact that North Korea has been launching nuclear missiles which has landed in Japanese sea.

  • Me June 29, 2014

    seems my comment didn’t go through.

  • Japakill June 29, 2014

    Ignorant or not I can comment it was so good this fucker set himselv on fire. I dont give s shit to his motivation, only enjoy fire pics as he was the one who made them public. This kind of heroes are needed to spicy up our lives

  • ICCAH June 29, 2014

    Some state that it will do no good & it was waste, they are authorities in regards to having done no good.

    Some will give excuses for the encroachment of the jackboot under the instigation of the virus, oh the lethal virus from the West. It eats away at all that it plants it’s troops & glimmering trinkets & wares.

    the symptoms of having been exposed to the virus and the proceeding naUSeA that is it’s lethality.

  • David June 29, 2014

    For those who say Japan does not have a large and dangerous armed forces, take a look at their navy, which although China has a larger navy in terms of size, most experts rate Japan as one of the most powerful naval powers on the planet due to the sheer number of modern vessels it has and the types of vessels when compared to other nations.

  • Paul June 30, 2014

    David, I’m very curious about your comment about Japan’s naval powers. Do you have a source for this?

  • Gene June 30, 2014

    I don’t understand all the fuss here.
    People protest and even burn oneself to oppose the government or its policy, yet the voting rate is low. Is it not allowed to voice opinions through democratic system here? Is this extreme, desperate protest really necessary? If so, it means (for them) the so-called democratic system itself is not working properly, which would be a much bigger problem than a single policy. What do you think?

  • Jenkins June 30, 2014

    Whatever religion this guy had, its false and there will be no afterlife for him.

    Now of y’all excuse me I’m going back to the atheism subreddit of the famous reddit website to replenish my euphoria. -tips fedora-

  • Terry White June 30, 2014

    Any attempt at suicide, whatever the motive, however misguided, is tragic. In this case if it gets enough news coverage to wake the millions of Japanese out of their apathetic slumber and at least think about the issue, then he will probably have achieved one of his goals.

  • David Wonger June 30, 2014

    Millions of Japanese people comparable live in its wealthy, peaceful and joy nation, most of them have no idea about what’s the fight and war are ( as their government blocked and erased their war history on invasion and massive killings…).
    Don’t tell the world that you Japanese people are heartless or cold blooded but learn from your suicide MAN’S BLOOD & WORDS: This is meant to be AWAKENING and SACRIFICE!!!!

  • Japanese citizen June 30, 2014

    Alita.

    Well,this man represented the majority of Japanese public opinion didn”t he?
    I dn’t know how you think but many of Japanese citizen might realised that its a quite a burden for them to look after US military especially in outer Tokyo area and Okinawa by spending their tax.
    I dont understand why you refer about Tibet either. but only thing I understand is that army and military industry in your country(US) need magic charm such as ”human rights” or what? ”democracy”? to rationalize themselves. If you really feel pity for Tibet, you are welcome to settle their and fire at random to the liberation army. but there are no guarantee that this is what locals really wish Alita.

  • Tenzin June 30, 2014

    Even though there are hundreds of vitness for this man’s self immolation protest-at-collective-self-defense-law-shinzo-abe-government but it didn’t became news for NHK TV and not even broadcast anything tated to this . That makes me more feel sad

  • DrZin June 30, 2014

    Japan is a grown-up nation in a neighborhood of violent, juvenile thugs. She needs to dispose of silly indulgences like the self-imposed fetters that serve only to make childish people feel comfortable in their silly eternal childhood.

  • Mike July 1, 2014

    Japanese Citizen,

    Why is the operating assumption in Japan that every english speaker is American?

  • Living in Japan July 1, 2014

    >>Mike You’ll have to let that slide; as a matter of statistics most of the English speakers japanese make contact with in recent decades are American. They don’t differentiate between the most likely possibility and reality, which gives the impression that they are stereotyping and racial-profiling when in fact they are just saving thought for something else. (or maybe they’re just the most racist nation of people on the planet, it’s hard to tell because they’re so earnestly kind and polite most of the time)

    >>Comments on Japanese media
    There was probably a brief mention of it on the evening news. Japan does not subscribe to “Freedom of the Press” as westerns define it. Although plenty of outrageous things do get reported, including criticism of the government and it’s officials by name, other things are considered too sensitive for publication. As a rule, suicides are censored so as not to encourage copycats (suicide remains a leading cause of death in Japan) and personal information is often withheld completely (by the police), but high profile events eventually get leaked. This case will certainly find its way out to the public; the pictures of the man’s face can and will be used to verify his identity by users of 2chan. The media faces the same pressure as anywhere else to put a political spin on everything; most likely this will be used in support of Abe’s plan by making his opposition look like suicidal maniacs which is sad because this man very likely died for his earnest belief that a militaized Japan is a bad thing (the news may have claimed that he survived to discourage others from making the attempt)

    >>Comments about going to such an extreme
    Burning yourself to death on purpose is beyond over-the-top as far as statements go. It is worth repeating “Japanese Citezen”‘s point that this man did represent the overwhelming majority in sentiment. There’s a huge gap between the interests of the Japanese government and the Japanse people, probably because most Japanese people actively avoid taking any interest in any political issue of any kind. It is unpopular, to the point of a major social faux pau, to express one’s personal opinion of a political matter to anybody. Most Japanese people regard others with any political conviction as fanatics to be shunned. Of course, if you badger anyone long enough they’ll eventually tell you that they agree with the majority; to find out what the majority is you’ll need to ask a group because individuals are incapable of interpreting consensus on a social level. The democratic system of Japan is completely undermined by this: the government can take any course of action with no regard for public opinion. The most common thing said aboi5 an unpopular decision, even a universally unwanted new law, is “sho ga nai” (“there’s nothing to be done about it”). In this political climate, where no one speaks up for themselves, i can see the appeal of making the boldest statement possible.

  • Randy D July 1, 2014

    It is hard to understand such an act, but I will say that as an America (along with many others, i beleive) may have never been aware of this issue had it not been for his sacrifice. If a man decides to devote his life to a cause and truly beleives he can accomplish more through his death than he ever could in life, then his act (although I dont condone it) is noble and shows more heart than most of us can even fathom.

  • A Japanese July 2, 2014

    Hello, I am a rather young Japanese citizen with a little bit of english education.
    I would like to tell that majority of us are not ‘against’ collective self defence. Most of us are simply ‘ignorant’.
    This is because the media had not been telling facts before their opinion.

    Japan is under several surrounding nation’s threat since years ago, but the media either filtered them out or only showed a bit.
    For example, Russia has been continuously sending military planes to Hokkaido and Sea of Japan. They still occupy the 4 northern islands, which are supposedly Japan’s.
    North Korea recently made a new missile that has Japan in its range, and there has been a few incidents between South Korea which could reignite their war.
    South Korea is occupying Takeshima (they call it Dokto), which is obviously stated in the Rusk Documents that it never was Korean land, and was returned to Japan. They also deploy ‘anti-Japan diplomacy’ by mentioning the so called “Comfort women” wherever they go. In which it was confirmed that it is false through documents from Japan, US, and even South Korea.
    China claimed the Senkaku islands as theirs after the discovery of possible oil field beneath it. In addition, they have been sending people over to Okinawa, trying to persuade the people in Okinawa to ‘claim independence’ from Japan, so that China can ‘assist’ and add to China.

    Much of us do not know these, and WERE about to be manipulated by media’s sweet words of “protect your family and children from war”. However there has been a recent change in interest mainly from the anime fans and gamers. They do a research on their favorite ‘tank character’ or ‘battleship character’ and find the unmentioned history of Japan (which were manipulated by the US by their War Guild Information Program in our textbooks). Then the words spread, and the change is happening slowly but surely.

    It is rather annoying that some of you ONLY mention the ‘cruelty’ of the Imperial Japanese army in WW2. It was the Europeans and US which were competing over the colonization of Asian nations, while the Soviet were descending South to spread communism, seeking for warm water ports. The whole of Asia including Japan was in threat from all directions.

    Japan was importing oil from US and Indonesia (which was under colonization by Netherland). However they stopped it, assuming that they can easily win war against colored people. They, caucasians, underestimated Japan as just another land for colonization. They stopped oil to make it easier for them to colonize. However, Japan fought against the caucasian army in Indonesia NOT the Indonesian people (they were banned from any artillery and education), then dominated the oil field. Japan did use many Indonesian people for Japan’s benefit in war, and killed many, but that was to survive from the caucasian threat. In fact, Japan did not have the time to colonize Indonesia, so they educated the local people with Indonesian language, gave them weapons, and supported the construction of their own government so that Indonesia would ‘support’ Japan later on in the war.
    However Japan ‘lost’ the war (even though they accomplished their war objective of freeing Asia from caucasian colonization). The later Tokyo court was conducted by THOSE caucasian, who tried to colonize Indonesia again after WW2 and failed (Indonesian army was educated and armored by Japan toward the end of WW2, so they had the power to claim independence). Which is why the ‘world history’ names Japan as the war criminal.

    So, NO Japan is not ‘going back’ to become cruel and evil (we weren’t anyways), we are trying to protect our nation by cooperating with friendly nations. Which nation would attack a nation allied with several many other nations? The estimated future punishment is the deterrence force that actually PREVENTS future war. Japan is not so strong like the US or Russia or China to defend ourselves on our own. We also do not plan to become so strong, but instead ally up with other rather weak nations to protect each of us. Simply put, the bullied are trying to group up to defend against the bullies.

    I do not regard this point of view on history to be completely truthful, but this is the other point of view that much of the world probably does not know. Any opinion should be based on as much knowledge as possible, so if anybody who may be ignorant on this issue is making offensive assumptions and speaking up more than those who are knowledgeable, please tell them our side of the story as well.

    Sorry for the long comment, and thank you for those who read. I appreciate any feed back ^^

  • Mike July 2, 2014

    Living in Japan,
    Yes, as a repatriated expat who lived in Japan, I remember the question cabbies would often ask: american-jin? At least, they asked first, I will give them that. It would help if Japanese actually could aptly discern between the different foreign accents but their skill is sadly as poor as my inability to differentiate between the variety of japanese dialects. I

  • Living in Japan July 2, 2014

    >>Mike
    I agree. The appearance of biggotry here is not so much subconcious racial discrimination as a lack of ability to distinguish the varous peoples of the world.

    >>A Japanese
    I’ve seen some of the tank characterizations. You should know anything of interest to otaku is inherently not mainstream. Also, your point of view is not entirely objective. All sides used propaganda, before and after the war(s), to further their agendas. No party can be said to be fully culpable or blameless in their war or post-war actions either. Mainland china was not consulted when Japan’s conquered islands were divided up because the US refused to recognize the communist regime. Russia wanted compensation for their losses in the Sino-Japanese war (where Japan acted as a proxy for european interests) and had a poorly executed arrangement with the US for a land invasion (the planned dual occupation of Japan proved unnecessary, but they went ahead with their part anyway). Japan’s own government is responsible for most of the historical omissions from school textbooks, mistakenly thinking that forgetting old problems will reduce tension with it’s neighbors. WW2 in Japanese history is really more a string of continuous conflicts stretching from a few decades before WW1 until the end of the pacific war with the US. It wasn’t easy to sort out what territory belonged to who after all that chaos. What is clear is that Japan wanted to expand, pushing out european and american colonial interests in place of their own; the reasons given for this vary by source.

  • thatguy July 4, 2014

    >>Comment by A Japanese

    Speaking as a european who married korean. Please don’t talk about false history where you know only little about it. I did some independent research and dokdo clearly belongs to Korea (hell even Tsushima (Deamado) belongs to Korea) according to old chinese maps (centuries older than your russian’s proffs),

    Japan was cruel and evil. Poor Korea suffered and recovered. China became a superpower.

    Don’t tell koreans this bullshit…even a grandmother of my wife has been under brutal japanese rule (she was forced to speak fucking japanese and to this day she does not remember a specific korean words.)

    If anything this japanese bullshit will reunite Koreas and they will nuke japan together and exterminate you once and for all.

  • Nami July 9, 2014

    I don’t think this person is a Japanese. In japan, it is a shame to become a nuisance to others. So, what he did was very dangerous to others, not only physically but also mentally (like trauma).
    If this person is a Japanese and really wanted to protest to the government, he would send a protest letter to the government as his dying wish and then, committed seppuku/hara-kiri in a quiet place. It is also shame to present any unpleasant scene. in japan, Yukio Mishima did Seppuku to protest the society.
    If he is really a Japanese and did this, I would be concerned whether he was brain washed or has delusion/hallucination.
    this way of protesting has been done in Tibet by young monks against Chinese government for a quite sometimes. Does this have something to do with China in order to distract people’s attention in what’s happening in Tibet?

  • William
    William (Post author) July 9, 2014

    @Nami

    Are you serious?!

  • A Japanese July 28, 2014

    >>Living in Japan
    You’ll see. We’re changing.

    >>thatguy
    If you conducted a fair search, thats a rare conclusion to reach. You probably heard about this matter from your wife first, and looked up resources based on that. Which makes you and your partner biased.

    First of all I am not sure which map you’re referencing, but I have never seen a map from South Korea that have been proved to refer to Takeshima. Many of them were maps of islands close to Ulleungdo, and none of them correctly portrayed the look of Takeshima. Takeshima has 2 islands next to each other, none shows two.

    Second of all, Japan was not only simply cruel and evil. What do you mean by that. How could you be so abstract about this complicated manner. Your research was obviously not thorough enough. Maybe I know little as you say, but you seem to know less than me.

    It’s a common thing that history views are different based on perspective, but it happens way too many times with Korea and China. Consider researching that too.

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