Myojo 56 building fire

Coordinates: 35°41′41″N 139°42′05″E / 35.69472°N 139.70139°E / 35.69472; 139.70139 The Myojo 56 building fire (明星56ビル火災, Myōjō Gojū-Roku Biru Kasai) was a structural fire that began at about 01:00 local time on September 1, 2001 in the Myojo 56 building, located in the Kabukichō section of Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan.

Myojo 56 building fire
Kabukicho fire-accident-building (1).JPG
Myojo 56 in June 2003, still shuttered nearly 2 years after the fire
DateSeptember 1, 2001
LocationKabukicho section of Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan
CauseSuspected arson
Non-fatal injuries3

The fire, the fifth-deadliest in post-war Japanese history,[1] burned for five hours before being extinguished and resulted in the deaths of 44 people. It is suspected that the fire resulted from arson, but no suspect was ever arrested. In the aftermath of the incident, media coverage focused on the arrest and conviction of the property owners for criminal negligence and on the building's putative ties to organized crime.


The fire burned on the third floor of the building. When the fire broke out, 19 people were on the third floor and 28 people were on the fourth floor.[2] Three employees jumped out of the building from the third floor and survived, suffering injuries. Witnesses who saw one of the employees called an ambulance.

Emergency responders arriving to treat the jumpers learned of the building fire and evacuation efforts commenced. Firefighters removed the bodies of 44 people (32 men and 12 women) from inside the building, and rescued those who managed to flee to the roof.[3][4]


Police officials remarked that the lethality of the fire was exacerbated by numerous violations of the fire code, including blocked fire doors and stairwells. The main cause of death among the fire's victims was found to be carbon monoxide poisoning.[4] An investigation conducted by the Metropolitan Police Department concluded that if the building's automated fire doors had not been prevented from closing, deadly gases would not have reached the building's occupied rooms for at least 20 minutes.[1]

One injured man, seen near the burning building, later disappeared.[5] The building was demolished in May 2006,[6] and replaced with a one-story restaurant.

Criminal allegationsEdit

Six individuals were arrested in conjunction with the blaze, on charges of professional negligence resulting in death. Those charged included two executives of the Myojo Kosan Group, which owned the building, and the commercial tenants of the structure, which housed a video mahjong parlor and a hostess bar.[1] On July 2, 2008, five of the defendants were convicted of negligence in the Tokyo District Court. The sixth defendant was acquitted.[7]

By July 3, 2008, Tokyo police had concluded that the fire resulted from arson, but had not made any corresponding arrest.[7]

Japan Today, an English-language online news outlet, quoted Tokyo police as stating that the mahjong parlor located in the building was "an illegal gambling den" with daily revenues of about eight million yen. Japan Today's report speculates that the Chinese mafia and yakuza could have been linked to the incident, as illegal gambling operations are regularly forced to pay "protection money" to organized crime syndicates. However, there is no material or eyewitness evidence of organized crime involvement in the fire.[8]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c "Police arrest six over deadly Kabukicho fire". The Japan Times Online. 2003-02-19. Retrieved 2008-05-23.
  2. ^ 新宿ビル火災の教訓 (in Japanese). Disaster Prevention System Institute. Retrieved 2008-07-17.
  3. ^ "Tokyo blast kills 44". BBC News. 2001-09-01. Retrieved 2008-05-23.
  4. ^ a b "Arson likely cause of Kabukicho blaze". The Japan Times. 2002-12-13. Retrieved 2008-02-05.
  5. ^ 歌舞伎町火災、ナゾの血まみれ足跡 (in Japanese). zakzak. 2001-09-09. Archived from the original on 2001-09-09. Retrieved 2008-07-17. Internet Archive copy.
  6. ^ 日本のニュースを英語で読むならジャパンタイムズウィークリー
  7. ^ a b "Five avoid prison for '01 inferno fatal to 44". The Japan Times Online. 2008-07-03. Retrieved 2008-07-16.
  8. ^ "Chinese mafia muscling in on Kabuki-cho". Japan Today. 2001-09-17. Retrieved 2008-07-21.[permanent dead link]

External linksEdit