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This Massive Explosion In Japan Was Caused By... Air Fresheners?

The explosion was so big that people in Sapporo thought it was an earthquake.
An aerial view of the site where a large explosion occurred at a pub in Sapporo, Japan.
An aerial view of the site where a large explosion occurred at a pub in Sapporo, Japan. Photo taken by Kyodo/ via Reuters

A wooden building housing a pub, doctor's office, and real estate agency in Sapporo, Japan, was leveled in a huge explosion on Sunday that police believe was caused by an unlikely source: more than 100 cans of air freshener.

That's right, air freshener, the stuff that real estate agents use to make homes smell like delicious fresh-baked cookies caused this to happen:

The investigation is still ongoing, but here's what the authorities think happened: someone had been stockpiling air freshener cans to eventually dispose of them somewhere safe (you're not supposed to just throw them in the trash, especially not in Japan, where the garbage disposal system is really strict and really complicated). Some of the cans sprung a leak and when the water heater ignited, the entire building blew up.


The explosion was so powerful that it left 42 people injured as it shattered windows as far as 70 meters away. Residents even farther away told the local press they thought it was an earthquake.

“Suddenly I heard the boom—my body was lifted and blown to the floor,” said a 28-year-old victim of the blast who was in the pub at the time of the blast. “After the explosion, the power went out and fire instantly spread and came near so I jumped out of an open window into the street.

“The ceiling fell, then the entire upper floor collapsed and we were all stuck. We managed to escape after everyone kicked through the wall."

The businesses lacked basic fire safety measures, despite being repeatedly warned of the risk, according to reports in local media.

Sapporo fire department official Takashi Shida told AFP.

"We instructed them to improve these points during an on-site inspection in October but they had not made progress," Takashi Shida, an official at the Sapporo fire department, told AFP.

There were also multiple propane tanks stored both inside and outside of the building that may have contributed to the blast's ferocity.

The building then caught fire and, in the end, this was all that was left:

On Monday morning, more than 50 residents of Sapporo were stuck sitting in evacuation shelters , moved there as a precaution once the fires started to spread. In total, 42 people, including a child as young as one, were injured in the blast, the majority of them customers of the pub. But the toll could've been much higher, according to one survivor. When the building blew up, the second floor collapsed, which allowed the patrons of the bar to kick through the wall and escape to safety.

If the floor hadn't caved in, well… the situation could've been far more grim, a 49-year-old pub-goer told Kyodo News.

“Everyone might have been stuck there and burned to death,” he said.