A man set himself on fire in the middle of Tokyo ’s busiest road junction on Monday evening in a case police are treating as an attempted suicide.
The incident occurred around 7.30pm and was captured on footage from a number of security cameras that are trained on the “scramble crossing” intersection outside Shibuya Station, as well as by several passers-by who uploaded the images to social media sites.
The video clips show the man, who has not been identified, starting to cross the intersection with a rucksack on his back. While other pedestrians are hurrying to cross, he appears to hesitate before taking his backpack off and setting it down on the road.
As some people glance in his direction, he appears to fall forward on his face before picking himself up again and setting fire to the backpack. With cars, taxis and buses steering around him, the man lies atop the small blaze.
Eventually, three police officers run into the crossing, with a clip on social media showing one policeman directing pedestrians around the still-burning remnants of the man’s bag. Another officer stands over the kneeling man, who is by this point shirtless and appears to be disoriented.
Firefighters then arrived on the scene as the blaze died down.
Police later confirmed the man sustained minor burns that required medical treatment, although no one else was injured and there was no significant damage to property.
Social media was abuzz over the incident, with some people calling it “scary” and “terrifying”. It was also reported on some television news shows.
Local media have reported that police are waiting until the man recovers from his injuries before they interview him, although they are investigating on suspicion that he was trying to kill himself.
An alternative suggestion on social media was that it was some sort of extreme stunt or poorly thought-out prank at a location that was certain to attract attention, as happened in April last year, when a video blogger carried a bed into the middle of the crossing and lay down on it.
In a similar stunt in Kyoto in 2018, a group of students took a kotatsu, a low table usually covered by a futon, into the middle of a busy road crossing and sat down.