‘I pay with my life’: one dead, three injured in two blasts linked to former soldier’s bizarre suicide in city near Tokyo

Media reports said the sites of the two explosions were around 200 metres apart and police found a suicide not in the sock of a charred body believed to belong to a 72-year-old retired officer of Japan’s Self-Defence Forces

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 23 October, 2016, 3:02pm
UPDATED : Monday, 24 October, 2016, 10:03am

A retired soldier was killed and several people injured by two blasts at a Japanese park in what may have been a bizarre suicide, police and reports said.

A festival was under way at the park when the 72-year-old former member of Japan’s Self Defence Forces apparently set off an explosive device that killed him and left three people injured including two seriously, police said.

Around noon police found pensioner Toshikatsu Kurihara at the park in the city of Utsunomiya after receiving a call about a person engulfed in flames following what sounded liked a blast, reports said.

Public broadcaster NHK said his badly charred body was found at a bicycle parking space.

Police suspect Kurihara killed himself and a suicide note with his name on it was found inside a sock he was wearing, according to Kyodo news agency.

“I pay with my life,” the note reportedly said, expressing concerns about family issues.

Two men aged 58 and 64 were seriously injured in the blast, while a 14-year-old junior high school student was left with­ ­minor injuries.

One of the injured was rushed to a local hospital after having possibly been struck by shrapnel from one of the explosions, ­although the extent of the victim’s injuries is not yet fully known, ­local police also said, with rescue officials adding the person is ­receiving medical treatment.

Several cars, including Kurihara’s, were found burning in a nearby car park lot at around 11.30am local time, following reports of blasts there.

No one was injured in those explosions, Kyodo said.

The Yomiuri Shimbun daily said one of the parked cars ­exploded and burnt down two others.

Minutes later, police found Kurihara’s scorched and dis­membered body, it said.

One witness told NHK that he “smelt gunpowder in the area” after the explosions.

NHK said the sites of the two explosions were about 200 metres apart, and police found a paper believed to be a suicide note in one of the burnt cars.

A folk art festival was taking place in the park at the time but was immediately called off following the blasts, it said.

Explosions of this kind are rare in Japan, although small pipe bomb blasts linked to extreme leftists occasionally go off near US military bases.

In November last year, a home-made pipe bomb exploded at a controversial Tokyo war shrine, damaging the toilets at the facility. No one was hurt.

A South Korean man was later arrested and sentenced to four years in prison after admitting to detonating the bomb at the­

Yasukuni shrine, which has been targeted by activists who see it as a symbol of Japan’s militaristic past.

Suicide rates have declined in Japan in recent years, but remain among the highest in the world, with around 30,000 people a year taking their own lives. Experts have pointed to the financial stress of surviving on small pensions for pushing some retired people to end their lives.

In 2015, a 71 year-old man set himself on fire on a bullet train in an incident that also claimed the life of a 52 year-old woman travelling in the same carriage.

Utsunomiya is located 100km north of Tokyo and is an important cultural, political and economic hub in Japan. It’s a popular destination for day trips by Japanese and foreign visitors.

Additional reporting by Reuters and Kyodo