In autumn, when appetites are strong, sweets are really delicious. When you think sweets—no matter what you say—it’s Morinaga. We’ve added some special flavor. The flavor of potassium cyanide is a little bitter.It won’t cause tooth decay, so buy the sweets for your kids. We’ve attached a notice on these bitter sweets that they contain poison. We’ve put twenty boxes in stores from Hakata to Tokyo.”
This is how one of Japan's greatest crimes went... and remains unsolved... a man or group of 21 people who terrorized Japan's candy industry and its citizens back in the early 1980s.
I actually recall this one - reading about it in local North American newspapers.
The Kaijin Nijūichi Mensō (かい人21面相)... aka the Mystery Man with 21 Faces, or the Monster with 21 Faces.
The name Kaijin Nijūichi Mensō was the name of a villain in a detective book by Hirai Tarō (surname first, 平井 太郎) who was born October 21, 1894– July 28, 1965... though he was better known through his writer's pseudonym of Edogawa Ranpo (江戸川 乱歩)... which was a neat Japanese way of pronouncing Edgar Allan Poe. Hirai's detective novels involved the lead Kogoro Akechi, who in later books played the leader of a group of boy detectives known as the "Boy Detectives Club"(少年探偵団, Shōnen tantei dan).
But... in real life Osaka of 1984, Kaijin Nijūichi Mensō, it began with a violent kidnapping of the president of Ezaki Glico - a Japanese company that had/has its hands in all-things food-related such as Pocky, Glico caramels and other treats.
On March 18, 1984, Ezaki Katsuhisa (surname first), 42, of Osaka came home and jumped into his ofuro (Japanese bath), soaking for a few minutes... when, at 9PM, two armed and hooded men came in and dragged him from the bath.
The men had first broken into the house next door where his mother lived and tied her up. They correctly figured she would have keys to her son's house, which they used to "break-in".
Even before Ezaki came home and jumped in the bath, the two men had tied up wife and daughter and cut the phone lines in the house. The wife, figuring that all they wanted was money, offered them some - but it was rejected.
Right there... the money offer was rejected. If this was going to be a kidnapping, then why not take the money and run?
But no... the two men seemed to have bigger plans afoot.
Dragging Ezaki from the bath, and showing him the toed up wife and daughter, they had him put on a coat and ski mask, and then drove him away to a unused warehouse.
OR (because there are always a mash-up of facts) ... Ezaki was hiding in the bathroom with two of his children after hearing the men break in and tie up his wife and daughter... and only after threatening to kill them did Ezaki calm down enough for them to drag him out, and then take him away to the warehouse.
Why not take the wife or the daughter or the other two kids? Take two kids... the guy screws around, you have a lot of leverage! Sigh.
Why take the guy who controls the money?! Stupid, stupid, stupid!!!
The next day as Osaka police found a ransom note in a nearby phone booth demanding 1-billion yen (US$4.3 million in 1984), as well as 100 kilograms (220 pounds) of gold bullion.
Seriously... you can get the money... but 220 pounds of gold? That's not something people just have lying around. Granted, we are talking about 1984 when I'm pretty sure my dad made the mistake of purchasing an ounce of silver at $49... so I guess people do have precocious metal lying around.
For Japan, it was a strange crime, as kidnappings were, generally speaking a western-type of crime. In Japan, when major crimes had been committed, it was the yakuza (the mob) doing business against one of their own, one of another yakuza gang, or simply punishing someone who had owed them money or someone who had refused to pay them... and those were just crimes of physical violence - and not kidnapping.
On March 20, 1984 - two days after Ezaki had been taken, and the police no where close to solving the crime, he escaped his kidnappers in the warehouse located in Ibaraki City in Osaka-prefecture.
While the population had been stunned over the kidnapping, everyone assumed that with Ezaki returned, that would be it.
But it certainly wasn't for Ezaki and his candy empire.
For whatever reason, Ezaki seemed to have pissed off someone quite badly.
Next up were two (2) fires set to cars in parking lots of a couple of Glico candy plants, that is believed to have been done by an arsonist(s).
Next came a phone call to the company where a man told them that for the equivalent of US$1.3 million, Glico could end this "harassment", telling them to drop off the money at a specific barbecue restaurant.
Then a young man was kidnapped while he sat in a parked car with a friend - pulling him out and taking him away.
These kidnappers told the Osaka man that he was going to collect the $1.3 million for them at a designated barbecue restaurant.
The police were notified of the ransom, and met the man collecting the money, arresting him... but letting him go after his friend told them who he was and what had happened to him.
And yes, no money has of yet actually changed hands.
Probably ticked off, the people harassing Glico decide to take things a lot farther and send letters to various Osaka news media telling them that they have placed cyanide soda-laced packs of Glico candy on store shelves, and that soon enough they would begin placing the same on store shelves all over Japan.
The first letter was sent on May 10, 1984.
Police did find a shop video of a man wearing a Yomiuri Giants baseball cap placing Glico chocolates on a store shelf by a security camera. That's him below. Glasses, too...
Companies began removing all Glico products from their shelves... and soon enough sales of Glico products around Japan began to drop...
Faced with a near 50 percent drop in sales in May, Glico announced it would be laying off some 1,000 workers.
So... if what we were dealing with were some disgruntled ex-Glico employees who simply wanted to punish Glico, the whole plan was a success.
But, causing other regular Joe Suzuki people to be laid off - the whole plan was now a miserable failure.
On top of the loss of sales, at least four other candy manufacturers who performed third-party manufacture on behalf of Glico, whose whole livelihood was based on its production of Glico products, they stopped operations entirely.
But, on the plus side, Glico, who only one year ago was a $540-million company, would this year drop to only being a $310-million company.
Still, the letters continued in to the news media re: Glico... who did eventually cut some 450 people from its production lines.
The letters, written in hiragana, and with an Osaka dialect said:
“Dear dumb police officers. Don't tell a lie. All crimes begin with a lie as we say in Japan. Don't you know that?”
|Osaka Police look to see if the Kaijin Nijūichi Mensō actually did leave a tampered candy pack.|
“Why don't you keep it to yourself? You seem to be at a loss. So why not let us help you? We'll give you a clue. We entered the factory by the front gate. The typewriter we used is PAN-writer. The plastic container used was a piece of street garbage. (signed) Kaijin Nijūichi Mensō"
On June 26, the Kaijin Nijūichi Mensō issued a message proclaiming its forgiveness of Glico, and subsequent harassment of the company ceased.
We can only assume that either the harassers seemed to believe they had caused enough trouble to Glico and were now moving on to another company that might actually pay the ransom... or perhaps that Glico paid a "harassment fee" to make it all go away.
Next up, Kaijin Nijūichi Mensō began its extortion campaign on another candy manufacturer, Morinaga, as well as food companies Marudai Ham and House Foods Corporation.
Police did get close to the suspected mastermind of the "Monster with 21 Faces", however.
On June 28, just days after agreeing to stop harassing Marudai in exchange for 50 million yen (about US$210,000), Kaijin Nijūichi Mensō arranged for a Marudai employee to toss the ransom money onto a local train heading toward Kyoto when a white flag was displayed.
An undercover officer disguised as a Marudai employee followed the instructions and saw someone watching him on the train... a man he later described as large, well-built, wearing sunglasses, his hair cut short and permed, with "eyes like those of a fox."
The white flag was not shown, however, so both the policeman and the "Fox-Eyed Man" (キツネ目の男, kitsune-me no otoko) got off at Kyoto station. As the policeman sat on a bench, he noticed that that same man was watching him.
The policeman later got back onto a train and headed back towards Osaka, noticing that the fox-eyed man did the same, but in a different passenger car. The police man got off at Takatsuki station, while another officer continued to tail the fox-eyed man, but unfortunately lost him.
Late in October of 1984, a letter addressed to "Moms of the Nation" and signed by Kaijin Nijūichi Mensō the, was sent to news agencies around Osaka saying that 20 packs of stated that 20 packs of
Morinaga candy had been laced with deadly sodium cyanide.
Police searched shops from Tokyo to western Japan and found over a dozen lethal packages of Morinaga Choco Balls and Angel Pie before anyone was poisoned. These packages had labels, such as "Danger: Contains Toxins", put on them. More tampered confections were found in February 1985, making a total of 21 lethal candy products.
On November 14, after the Kaijin Nijūichi Mensō tried to blackmail/extort the House Food Corporation of 100 million yen (about US$410,000), the police once again attempted to catch him picking up the money.
They tailed a delivery van dropping off the van that was supposed to drop the money in a can under a white piece of cloth. But, when the delivery van reached the drop point, the white cloth was there but the can was missing.
As a result, the investigative team was ordered to withdraw, believing that the drop was an evaluation by Kaijin Nijūichi Mensō of police response.
However, an hour earlier, a patrol car from the local Shiga prefecture police had spotted a station wagon with its engine running and its headlights off. The station wagon was also sitting less than 50 meters from a white cloth suspended from a fence. Unaware of the secret ransom drop, the police officer drove up to the station wagon and shone his flashlight on the driver, revealing a thin-cheeked man in his forties, wearing a golf cap over his eyes and, more telling, a wireless receiver with headphones. Surprised by the policeman, the driver sped off, with the police car following in pursuit until the station wagon lost him.
The station wagon was later found abandoned near the Kusatsu Station - a stolen car from Nagaokakyo in Kyoto prefecture. Inside the car was a radio transceiver that had been eavesdropping in on radio communications between the police officers of six prefectures, including Osaka, Kyoto, and Kobe, the prefectures of the drop point. Also recovered was a vacuum cleaner, although no evidence could be traced back to Kaijin Nijūichi Mensō.
Following the blackmail campaign on House Foods, Kaijin Nijūichi Mensō tried its hand at Fujiya in December 1984.
In January of 1985, police released the facial composite of the "Fox-Eyed Man" to the public.
Months later in August of 1985, failing to capture Kaijin Nijūichi Mensō, Shiga Prefecture Police Superintendent Yamamoto killed himself by self-immolation.
Five days after the death of Yamamoto, on August 12, 1985, the "Monster with 21 Faces" sent its last message to the media:
Yamamoto of Shiga Prefecture Police died. How stupid of him! We've got no friends or secret hiding place in Shiga. It's Yoshino or Shikata who should have died. What have they been doing for as long as one year and five months? Don't let bad guys like us get away with it. There are many more fools who want to copy us. No-career Yamamoto died like a man. So we decided to give our condolence. We decided to forget about torturing food-making companies. If anyone blackmails any of the food-making companies, it's not us but someone copying us. We are bad guys. That means we've got more to do other than bullying companies. It's fun to lead a bad man's life. Monster with 21 Faces.After releasing the composite, police thought they had their man, Miyazaki Manabu, who back in 1976 had supported a local union against Glico, who had back then been dumping starches and other industrial waste into the local river and drainage system.
Miyazaki was also suspected to have been involved with the resignation of a union leader over accounting irregularities when Glico Ham and Glico Nutritional Foods merged.
Add in the fact that Miyazaki's dad was the boss of a local yakuza group, plus his resemblance to the description... well, police thought they had their man... except he had alibis for all the times he was supposedly seen.
He was cleared.
Police have thought that the crimes had been perpetrated by various yakuza gangs... but that's probably because if there's a crime going on in Japan, they believe it is always the yakuza. That's not to say they are wrong, but no evidence points to them being right.
As of this date, the person or persons known as Kaijin Nijūichi Mensō have never been apprehended.
Then again... there's no evidence that aside from tampering with the candy, no one ever got sick or killed, and no one made any money on the kidnapping or made any money from the extortion... that the public is aware of.
Again, why did the harassment of Glico suddenly stop?
In June 1995, the statute of limitations ran out on the assault and kidnapping of Ezaki, followed by the elapse of the statute of limitations in February 2000 on the charge of attempted murder for the poisoned food products.