The 300 million yen robbery occurred on the morning of December 10, 1968 in Tokyo, Japan. At the time it was the single largest heist in Japanese history, and to this day it remains unsolved.
The mystique, and ultimately the brilliance of the robbery is that it appears to have been carried out by just one man – who according to legend was only a teenager at the time.
Four Kokubunji branch employees of the Nihon Shintaku Ginko bank were transporting 294,307,500 yen in the trunk of a company car. They were stopped in the street next to Tokyo Fuchu prison by a young uniformed officer on a police motorcycle. The policeman informed them that their branch manager’s house had been blown up, and they had received a warning that explosives had been planted in the transport car. The four employees voluntarily exited the vehicle while the officer crawled under the car to locate the bomb. Moments later, the employees noticed smoke and flames under the car as the officer rolled out, shouting that it was about to explode. When the employees retreated to the prison walls, the policeman got into the car and drove away.
Nobody had been hurt, the crime had taken place in broad daylight, and the perpetrator disappeared without a trace.
Why it worked:
Well, the bank employees believed the thief was a policeman, and accepted his story about the bomb because threatening letters had been sent to the bank manager beforehand. And because of this, they co-operated with the ‘policeman’s’ requests, exiting the vehicle at will, meaning there was no forcible theft of the money.
In the immediate aftermath of the robbery, a massive police investigation was launched, posting 780,000 montage pictures throughout Japan. The list of suspects included 110,000 names, and 170,000 policemen participated making it to this day the largest investigation in Japanese history. Basically, they didn’t have a clue.
Anyway, the smoke and flames turned out to be the result of a warning flare the police imposter had ignited whilst under the car. This is great in itself, however the more you dig, the more ingenious the plot becomes… The flare was just one of 120 pieces of evidence left at the scene of the crime. However, the evidence left were not clues to aid the authorities in their inquest; quite the contrary; they were primarily common everyday items, scattered on purpose to ultimately confuse the police investigation.
I’m not sure how much of this story has been embellished over the years. In the words of Galadriel when something this astonishing happens: “History becomes legend, legend becomes myth.” However, as of 1988, the thief has been relieved of any civil liabilities, meaning he could tell his story without fear of legal repercussions. To this day he has yet to come forward. And for what it’s worth, I hope it stays that way and he never reveals himself, even if it’s just to keep the legend going. In my head I’ve got this great image of a now 60 odd year old man waking up every morning on a desert island somewhere remote and just grinning to himself thinking “I did it… I pulled it off!”