”I smell gas” and “I want a smoke” are two thoughts that don’t go well together.

Shinbashi is usually one of the quieter, more sedate parts of downtown Tokyo. It’s predominantly an office district, and while you’ll see packs of salarymen out for an after-work drink with their officemates in the evening, the neighborhood doesn’t have the atmosphere of wealthy excess you’ll find in Ginza or the palpable lasciviousness of Roppongi.

But things were anything but quiet in Shinbashi on Monday afternoon when a bar suddenly exploded.

▼ Video of the explosion

The explosion took place at around 3:15 p.m., with the blast occurring in a bar/cafe on the second floor of a mixed-use building. The bar had not yet opened for the evening, so no customers were present at the time, but the manager, a man in his 50s, and an employee in her 50s, were inside doing pre-open prep work and sustained injuries, as did a passerby on the street in his 50s who was struck by flying shards of glass and another passerby in his 70s who suffered burns. Miraculously, no one was killed.

▼ The bar appears to have been Moutiers, seen on the second floor here.

Another tenant in the building says that there was a noticeable gas odor within the structure since that morning, and the bar’s manager smelled it as well, saying “I smelled something like gas or sewage.” Despite the smell, though, the manager still wanted to smoke. “I went into our smoking room, and at the moment I lit my cigarette, the explosion happened.”

▼ An aerial view of the blast area

Lighting up under those conditions seems extremely imprudent, to put it in polite terms. The manager’s eventually unwarranted sense of security may have stemmed from the fact that the bar doesn’t have any gas-powered kitchen equipment, doing all of its cooking with electric power instead. They don’t even have a contract with the gas company, according to the manager, which has led investigators to suspect that gas was leaking from elsewhere in the building and accumulated in the bar.

The fire caused by the explosion took firefighters roughly three hours to put out, but considering how powerful the blast looks in the video, it’s amazing that it didn’t cause more widespread damage, injuries, or loss of life. Still, the incident serves as an important reminder that if you smell gas inside a building, sticking around isn’t a very smart idea, especially if you can’t stick around without having a smoke.

Source: NHK News Web (1, 2)
Top image: Pakutaso
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