The Greatest Robbery in Japanese History Who dun it?

    Crime in Japan is incredibly low compared to most other countries; it’s generally regarded as one of the safest countries in the world. So when there is a crime in Japan, it definitely gets noticed. Did you know that one of the biggest crimes of all time in Japan happened nearly 50 years ago, and still remains unsolved to this day? Let me tell you about the 300 million yen robbery.

    The Heist

    In 1968, a small bank in Japan began receiving threats that somebody was going to bomb the bank manager’s house unless the blackmailer was paid ¥300,000,000. The police went to the house to guard it on the day it was supposed to be bombed, but the threat came and went and nothing happened.

    A few days later, a bank car carrying almost ¥300,000,000 (or about $800,000) was out to deliver the money as bonuses . Normally, this car would only have two people accompanying the money, but because of all the recent threats, four people were in the car, guarding the money.

    As the car was rolling along, the four people in the van saw a uniformed man in the road signaling them to pull over. Assuming he was a police officer, they pulled over and rolled down their window.

    The man told the four bank employees that the bank manager’s house had just been blown up, and that their car was the next target. Knowing that the bank manager had been threatened earlier that week, the four employees panicked and got out of the car.

    A team of police in bomb gear outside a bank
    Drop the yen! I said drop the yen!
    Source: Jim Winstead

    The uniformed man looked under the car and suddenly smoke and flames emerged. The employees ran and took cover and as they did, the uniformed man jumped into the car and drove away.

    The employees emerged, bewildered, to discover that they’d been tricked with a smoke bomb and flare. They also later found out that the bank manager’s house hadn’t, in fact, been blown up. The whole thing was a hoax, and the mysterious uniformed man walked away with a cool ¥300,000,000.

    And like that, ¥300,000,000 was gone. Nobody had been hurt, the crime had taken place in broad daylight, and the perpetrator disappeared without a trace. You could say that the thief was Japan’s very own D. B. Cooper.

    Whodunit?

    Forty years after the robbery, nobody has claimed responsibility for the crime. The statute of limitations has long since passed on the crime, meaning that whoever committed the robbery forty years ago can’t be charged with anything.

    There’s tons of speculation to who did it. Was it Yakuza? Was the man working alone? Did he use the money to build his own personal Gundam and fly into space?

    Nobody knows for sure, and we’ll likely never know. Police have stopped investigating and there’s really not a whole lot of motivation for the criminal to step forward, aside from a lucrative book deal and rights to a movie about his life.

    Man in a police helmet and high-collared sweater
    Composite picture of the suspect.

    But of course, this sort of mystery leads to tons and tons of conspiracy theories. Just the word “unsolved’ is the kind of thing that makes a conspiracy theorist water at the mouth. (Second only to “illuminati.”) Some people suspect that the criminal was backed by the CIA, others say the whole incident was an elaborate hoax acted out by the Japanese government. But those kinds of discussions are probably best left to the X-Files and people who wear tin-foil hats.