TOKYO (TR) – The trial of a 53-year-old man accused of setting his apartment on fire was completed at the Tokyo District Court last month.
Based on the testimony, it is a sad tale spurred by loneliness and addiction to a live-streaming app that was compounded by the coronavirus pandemic, reports TBS News (April 30).
On April 24, the prosecution opened the proceedings by claiming the defendant attempted suicide by igniting kerosene inside his apartment at around 3:00 a.m. one day in December 2021.
The man admitted to the allegations. “I don’t think it’s wrong,” he said.
Over the year leading up to the incident, the man was addicted to a live-streaming app. Monthly payments, he told the court, had become a problem.
He began using it in October 2020. “The coronavirus was widespread,” he said, “If I went out or ate out during this time, it would be setting a bad example for those at my company. So, one day I was looking at my smartphone, and I came across the app.”
The defendant’s financial situation progressively deteriorated. His take-home pay was about 250,000 yen. He paid 84,000 yen for rent (including parking) and about 37,000 yen in mobile-phone fees, which was for three people, including his divorced wife and son.
In the months before the incident, he spent about 80,000 yen a month on the live-streaming app, and his savings dwindled.
“There is no limit”
“What kind of live-streaming app is it?” the prosecution asked.
“Users give something like a coin to the person who is broadcasting, and they will be ranked according to [the coins], and these will be like the salary of the [person].
The prosecution went on, “Basically, it so-called “support” for the person?” For which, the defendant answered in the affirmative.
The defendant, who had a fondness for a singer in her 20s, gave the support through nagezen, or tossing a coin.
“There was a ranking system among viewers, and if you contributed a lot, you got a higher rank, or people called you by your handle repeatedly,” the defendant said of the appeal of the system.
When asked whether 80,000 yen a month was a lot of money for nagezen, the defendant said, “There is no limit to the amount of money I can throw at them, and there is no upper limit.”
“I wanted to stop, but I couldn’t”
Live-streaming apps have become popular as people spend more time at home due to the pandemic. According to the National Consumer Affairs Center (NCC), the number of consultations and problems related to nagezen on live-streaming apps has been increasing over the past few years.
“I got hooked and couldn’t pay the high fees,” one person confided to the center. Another said that their children were using the credit cards of their parents to pay the fees.
At one point, the defendant mentioned that his “reason for living” was to continue supporting the singer. The judge then wondered how that support would continue if he committed suicide. “No, but…it’s not free. I wanted to stop, but I couldn’t,” he said.
“A normal life”
The judge went on, “There are other ways to commit suicide, but why arson?”
“I had some disreputable belongings, and didn’t want them to be seen after my death, so I wanted them to burn with me,” he said, adding that they were adult video DVDs that he didn’t want hsi parents to see.
At the time, the defendant’s elderly mother was taking care of his father, who was in a wheelchair, and her brother, who was severely mentally handicapped, all by herself.
Although only a tiny portion of the floor was burned in the defendant’s apartment, the walls were scorched and the glass of the windows broken. The cost to repair the damage totaled 6 million yen.
According to the prosecution, the insurance covered most of the repair costs, and the defendant’s mother paid for the removal of his belongings. In addition, she felt that she “could not bear to put a burden on her mother, who was having a hard time caring for her.
The defendant’s mother also appeared as a witness. While on the stand, she apologized to the residents and the landlord and expressed her feelings for her son.
“Before the incident, did the defendant visit your house?” the prosecution asked. “He came about once a month to accompany my husband to the hospital and take care of him, and he also took my eldest son, who likes cars, for a drive,” she said.
When asked about her desire for her son’s future, she said, “I hope that he will work and live a normal life.”
The prosecution had sought a five-year prison term. On April 28, the court handed him a three-year term, suspended for five years. The Tokyo District Court condemned the crime, saying, “The possibility of a catastrophe cannot be denied, and the act endangered the lives and well-being of the residents [of the building] and the property of the owner.”
The judge said, “To some extent, we can understand loneliness taking place during the coronavirus pandemic, also the feeling of emptiness he felt from being immersed in the live-streaming app, and his vague anxiety about his dwindling savings.”
The judge handed down the suspended sentence due to the defendant’s remorse and the fact that his mother and colleagues at work have promised to keep in regular contact with him and check up on him.
“A suspended sentence does not mean that you are forgiven,” the judge said. “I want you to be prepared for the fact that if you commit not only arson but any and all other crimes in the world, your probation will be revoked.”
The defendant nodded silently as the judge admonished him for the last time.