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Japan’s Most Wanted

You see their faces on posters outside every koban. The ubiquitous cold-eyed stares of Japan’s most infamous killers and low-life criminals ensure that these fugitives are known to the whole nation, yet they are rarely discovered by any of Japan’s 127 million inhabitants. But who are they? And what did they do? These are Japan’s MOST WANTED:

Tatsuya Ichihashi
Wanted for the murder of English teacher Lindsay Hawker in Chiba in 2007. Ichihashi managed to escape on foot from seven policemen who were waiting outside his apartment, where the murder had taken place. Despite a ¥10 million reward (more than three times the normal maximum amount) on offer for information leading to his arrest, as well as tabloid rumors of sightings in the gay quarter of Kabuki-cho, he remains at large. It has been theorized that Ichihashi has fled to the Philippines.

Makoto Hirata
Wanted for the murder of a notary in 1995, as well as in connection with the deadly sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway in March of the same year. It’s been nearly 15 years since the now-defunct/rebranded Aum Shinrikyo cult’s terrorist attack on the Tokyo subway, but there are still three key members of the group who are on the run. Makoto Hirata, described as being "surprisingly tall" at 183cm, is one of them.

Naoko Kikuchi
Also wanted for her involvement in the Tokyo Sarin Gas Attack of 1995, which killed 12 people and injured a thousand or more.

Katsuya Takahashi
Another Aum Shinrikyo member yet to be caught, Katsuya Takahashi is wanted for aiding and abetting fugitives. The National Police Agency is offering a ¥6 million reward for information leading to the arrests of Takahashi, Kikuchi and Hirata.    

Keiei Uechi
Wanted for the murder of an assistant manager at an izakaya in Tokyo in 2005. Originally from Okinawa and described as being well built but missing his front teeth, Uechi used a knife to commit the murder.

Tsuyoshi Yoshiya
Wanted for the murder of a biker in a rival motorbike gang in 1999. Yoshiya has an adopted Japanese name, but he’s actually Chinese.

Takeo Matayoshi
Wanted for the murder of two policemen in Okinawa 19 years ago. He has tattoos of flowers and a lion, and if he’s not caught at some point in the next six years he’ll be free to show them off in public again (see the crazy 25-year rule).
Kazuyuki Tominaga
Wanted for the murder in 2000 of the driver of a bank vehicle, which was at the time making a delivery to a pachinko parlor. Tominaga and an unidentified Chinese accomplice gunned down the driver before successfully escaping with ¥46 million in cash (at current rates, that’s more than half a million US dollars).

the crazy 25-year rule

One of many oddities in Japan’s policing system is the law which dictates that if you’re not caught within 25 years following the time you perpetrated some terrible crime for which you are deemed to be deserving of a place on death row, you can no longer be arrested or prosecuted for it. In principle, this means you can do something hideous, run away, show up 25 years and a day later, confess to the crime, and yet still not face any consequences for your actions. No arrest. No jail. Because, after all, it was a long time ago.

There have been numerous instances of people taking advantage of this law. One notable example was that of a "guardman" at a Tokyo school who murdered a female teacher in 1978 and kept her corpse at his home until 2004, when construction work was scheduled to widen the street on which the murderer lived. That meant he would have to relocate, and his dark secret would have been exposed during the process of demolishing his house. Initially he maintained that he and his wife didn’t want to move because they were old and quite settled where they were, but since 26 years had passed since the murder, he eventually decided to confess to the police before the roadworks were carried out. The family of the victim are currently suing the murderer for emotional distress, though he is not liable to be prosecuted for the murder itself. Shame those roadworks weren’t carried out a year earlier…

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