UK & World News

  • 29 June 2014, 16:11

Japan: Man Sets Himself On Fire In Central Tokyo

A man set himself on fire in busy central Tokyo in an apparent protest at plans to reform Japan's pacifist constitution.

Police say the middle-aged Japanese man doused himself in what is thought to be petrol before setting himself alight outside the main train station in Shinjuku, one of the capital's busiest shopping and entertainment districts.

According to witnesses, it came after the man climbed up to the metal framework above a footbridge before giving a speech through a megaphone opposing the government's moves to expand the use of Japan's military.

Footage and images on social media showed the man dressed in a dark suit and tie, with two plastic bottles beside him.

After firefighters had extinguished the flames, he was taken to hospital with serious injuries and his condition was not immediately known.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is pushing to reinterpret Japan's strict pacifist constitution to allow its well-equipped armed forces to fight in defence of an ally, something currently prohibited.

Critics say the shift undermines the war-renouncing Article 9 of Japan's Constitution, and opposition groups have staged constant but peaceful protests outside the premier's official residence.

Japan has had very few self-immolations in the past despite a long history of suicides by ritual disembowelment, or seppuku, dating back to the feudal era.

The most high-profile suicide for political reasons in the modern era was by Yukio Mishima, a right-wing author considered to be one of Japan's greatest novelists, who killed himself in front of the headquarters of Japan's Self Defence Forces in 1970 after an unsuccessful coup attempt.