A bizarre death occurred in the Kabukicho area of Shinjuku, Tokyo recently as a 22-year-old woman died after falling nine stories during a visit to the restroom. Although suicide hasn’t been entirely ruled out, this appears to be a case of highly unusual building practices as a door opening onto a sheer drop was also present in the room.

■ The death

The incident took place on 12 December last year when the victim was out drinking with a small group of friends. The party arrived at an unnamed eatery on the ninth floor of a multi-tenant building at approximately 1:00am. After some typical drinking and eating, the victim announced to her friends at around 4:30am that she had to use the ladies’ room.

Following the woman’s lengthy absence from the table, her friends naturally became concerned. They went to the restaurant’s restroom but found that the door was locked. With it being the only restroom in the establishment, they resolved that their friend must still be inside. They tried knocking but received no answer.

Eventually the women had the door pried open but found the room empty. They then noticed another door – outside of which was absolutely nothing besides a sheer drop to the ground below – left open.

A staff member immediately dialed 110 and reported that someone may have fallen. Soon after, an officer found the victim on the ground outside the building in which the eatery is located. The woman was pronounced dead on the way to hospital.

■ The room

The private bathroom had a toilet facing perpendicular to the entryway. When sitting on the toilet the user would see the door they came in through on their right and another door-like section of wall on their left.

This secondary, exterior, door would open out onto nothing except the outer wall of the adjacent building, with a one-meter (3.3ft) gap between. This door was also slightly different in that its bottom edge was a clear 35cm (14in) from the restroom floor and had a “safety bar” installed at around waist height. However, it had a regular door lock attached to it which was similar to the one on the entrance to the restroom.

The prevailing theory is that the woman was likely intoxicated considering the time and location of the incident, and mistook the door to the outside as the door she had entered through. Upon realizing her mistake, she likely staggered and flipped over the bar falling to the alley beneath.

■ Why is there a door to nowhere?

Although the case is not completely closed on whether the woman’s death was accidental or not, there is also the perplexing question of why a door to nowhere was even there to begin with.

A subsequent investigation by an Asahi Shimbun reporter found that it was installed for ventilation by the architect. The reason it was shaped almost exactly like a regular door could not be ascertained, however, because the architect in question no longer worked for the firm which constructed the building.

It was noted that in this particular building, every floor from the third one up had such a door, but only the restaurant on the ninth floor had a bathroom installed around it. The other floors had walled over their dangerous portals making it impossible for anyone to go through. According to Asahi, the owners of the building claimed that they left it up to the discretion of their tenants how to deal with the doors and were completely unaware that a washroom had been built in a room containing one of them.

■ Stay Alert

Needless to say this mystery is murky as all living parties will surely want to avoid liability and the only one who can know the truth is sadly no longer with us. But the one lesson we can take from this tragedy is that you should always pay careful attention to your surroundings, particularly when out drinking or in an unfamiliar place. You never know when the wrong turn will come up and spell disaster so stay sharp and stay safe.

Source: Asahi Shimbun (Japanese)
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