Photo/IllutrationSome of the messages left near the scene of the blaze that gutted a studio of Kyoto Animation Co. contain writing in foreign languages. (Hikaru Uchida)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

KYOTO--Flowers and messages near the scene of a horrific arson attack have been left not only by Japanese mourners but also people from abroad whose interest in Japan was spurred through the works of “Kyoani.”

Online messages of support and condolences from around the world poured in for Kyoani, as Kyoto Animation Co. is known around the world, after a deliberately-set fire at its studio here on July 18 killed at least 34 people.

Now, visitors from overseas are paying their respects at what remains of the three-story building in Kyoto’s Fushimi Ward.

Ding Yu, 27, a Chinese student who resides in Kyoto’s Sakyo Ward, first came in contact with the works of Kyoani seven years ago when he was a student at a Chinese university. The animation helped with his Japanese language studies.

“I am a huge fan of Kyoani,” Ding said while laying flowers near the site of the blaze.

A 29-year-old American who came to Japan on business about two years ago said he became interested in learning Japanese after watching a Kyoani work about 15 years ago.

“I grew up watching Kyoani, so I feel like I have lost a family member," he said. “I came here on behalf of six friends. I left a card that expressed my appreciation for adding color to my youth.”

The fire killed 20 women, 13 men and one person who was so badly burned that gender could not be immediately determined.

A 29-year-old Chinese man said he came to work in Japan and live in Kyoto because he wanted to be near the place where Kyoani works were created.

“I am very worried about the future of the company as well as the psychological stress and worries held by company employees left behind,” he said.

A 26-year-old American who studies at a Japanese university arrived in Kyoto on July 18 when the fire was set.

“I was in such shock that I started crying at a bus stop on my way over here,” he said. “I love Japan, but I am afraid that whenever I think about Kyoto in the future I will recollect this incident.”

Police identified the suspected arsonist as Shinji Aoba, 41, who was severely injured in the fire and remains unconscious and in critical condition.

But they have not divulged the names of any of the victims, which has added to the anxieties of friends and family members of employees at the studio.

Some family members have been contacted about loved ones who died, but many others have no idea about the status of their relatives.

One woman who visited the location where the studio of Kyoto Animation stood received word from her 22-year-old son that he was at a temporary morgue because his fiancee had died in the fire. The woman said her son and his fiancee were college classmates.

“My son told me they were conducting a DNA analysis,” she said. “He also said, ‘Don’t come here.’”

The Kyoto prefectural police academy in Fushimi Ward has been turned into a temporary morgue, and family members and friends have been visiting the facility since the morning of July 19.

A second studio of Kyoto Animation near the company’s headquarters in Uji, Kyoto Prefecture, has been used as a waiting area for family members who came for any word about their loved ones.

One 69-year-old man said he was unable to contact his second oldest daughter who has worked for close to two decades at Kyoto Animation. He searched a number of hospitals in the area but found nothing. Police told him it might take at least a week for all the details to emerge.

“Until then, I have decided to not think too much about it,” the man said. “I feel that all sorts of emotions will emerge at that time.”

Senior officials of the Kyoto prefectural police said at a news conference that the names of the victims would be released when they were confident they had obtained positive identification.