Over the weekend, according to NHK, the Japanese public broadcaster, Osaka firefighters began urgent on-site inspections of buildings with a single staircase, identifying nearly 5,500 of those structures in the city of nearly 2, 7 million. The firefighters checked that these exits were not blocked.
Two years ago, another arson attack at an animation studio in Kyoto, not far from Osaka, left 33 people dead and dozens injured in one of the worst massacres in Japan in decades. In this case, fire experts identified many issues with the building, which also only had one main stairwell and lacked fireproofing on the interior fittings.
Such episodes disrupt a fundamental sense of security in Japan, where crime is relatively rare and murder rates are among the lowest in the world.
“In Japan there is a myth of security,” said Yasuyuki Deguchi, a criminal psychologist at Mirai University in Tokyo. “It is very, very difficult to stop these crimes,” he added. “Most of these crimes happen without warning. You can’t even guess that they are thinking of arson.
Arson experts say it is a public health concern, with many authors showing signs of mental illness. Theresa A. Gannon, professor of forensic psychology at the University of Kent in England, said arsonists were often antisocial or struggled to form intimate relationships, and used the ignition of fire as a mechanism for adaptation or to attract attention.
Ms Gannon and a team from the University of Kent have developed a training program for mental health professionals to treat people who have started fires in the past. She said the team had trained professionals in the United States, Australia, Canada and Singapore and a manual was available in Japanese.
Last year in Japan, there were nearly 2,500 arson attacks, which killed 236 people, according to the Fire and Disaster Management Agency.