Japan Data

Major Fires in Japan Since 1925


Arson was the cause of half of Japan’s 10 major fires with 10 or more fatalities in the twenty-first century so far.

On December 17, 2021, a fire at a mental health clinic on the fourth floor of an eight-story building in Osaka’s Kita Ward resulted in the deaths of 25 people, as of December 21. Police are investigating the incident as a possible case of murder and arson.

The table below shows major fires in Japan with 10 or more fatalities—excluding those related to earthquakes, firebombing, and other such events—that have taken place since 1925.

The deadliest blaze during this time period was at the Sennichi Department Store in Osaka on May 13, 1972, which killed 118 people and injured 81 more. The cause is thought to have been an unextinguished cigarette. On November 29, 1973, another major fire at Taiyō Department Store in Kumamoto, Kumamoto Prefecture, resulted in 104 fatalities and 124 injuries.

In the 1980s, Japan saw a spate of serious hotel fires, including the disaster at the Kawaji Prince Hotel in Fujihara, Tochigi Prefecture, in which 45 people died, and the Hotel New Japan, Tokyo, in which 33 died.

Of 10 major fires in the twenty-first century so far, half were caused by arson. Among them are the Kabukichō fire on September 1, 2001, which killed 44 people, and the attack on Kyoto Animation on July 18, 2019, which killed 36.

Major Fires in Japan Since 1925

Date Place Fatalities (cause)
December 17, 2021 Mental health clinic, Osaka 25 (as of December 21, 2021) (suspected arson)
July 18, 2019 Kyoto Animation, Kyoto 36 (arson)
January 31, 2018 Residence facility, Sapporo, Hokkaidō 11 (inconclusive)
May 17, 2015 Low-cost hostels, Kawasaki, Kanagawa Prefecture 11 (arson)
October 13, 2013 Hospital, Fukuoka, Fukuoka Prefecture 10 (electrical)
March 19, 2009 Nursing home, Shibukawa, Gunma Prefecture 10 (cigarette)
October 1, 2008 Video store, Osaka 16 (arson)
April 11, 2003 Fireworks factory, Kagoshima, Kagoshima Prefecture 10 (inconclusive)
September 1, 2001 Four-story building in Kabukichō, Tokyo 44 (suspected arson)
May 5, 2001 Construction worker dormitory, Yotsukaidō, Chiba Prefecture 11 (inconclusive)
March 18, 1990 Nagasakiya store, Amagasaki, Hyōgo 15 (inconclusive)
June 6, 1987 Nursing home, Higashimurayama, Tokyo 17 (inconclusive)
February 11, 1986 Daitōkan Hotel, Higashiizu, Shizuoka Prefecture 24 (gas range)
February 21, 1983 Zaō Kankō Hotel, Zaō, Yamagata Prefecture 11 (electric heater)
February 8, 1982 Hotel New Japan, Tokyo 33 (cigarette)
November 20, 1980 Kawaji Prince Hotel, Fujihara, Tochigi Prefecture 45 (welding flame)
August 16, 1980 Underground shopping center at Shizuoka Station, Shizuoka, Shizuoka Prefecture 15 (gas explosion)
November 29, 1973 Taiyō Department Store, Kumamoto, Kumamoto Prefecture 104 (inconclusive)
May 13, 1972 Sennichi Department Store, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture 118 (cigarette)
February 5, 1969 Bankō Hotel, Kōriyama, Fukushima Prefecture 31 (gas stove)
November 2, 1968 Ikenobō Mangetsujō Hotel, Kobe, Hyōgo Prefecture 30 (boiler malfunction)
March 11, 1966 Kikufuji Hotel, Minakami, Gunma Prefecture 30 (kerosene heater)
February 17, 1955 Nursing home, Yokohama, Kanagawa Prefecture 99 (pocket heater)
May 9, 1939 Celluloid factory, Tokyo 32 (cigarette)
December 16, 1932 Shirokiya Department Store, Tokyo 14 (electrical)

Created by Nippon.com based on publicly available information on websites for organizations including the Fire and Disaster Management Agency and the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism.

(Originally published in Japanese. Banner photo: The fire at the Hotel New Japan in Tokyo on February 8, 1982. © Jiji.)

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