TBS: Daring heist of expensive watches in Sapporo. So daring it might have been foreigners!, says Hokkaido Police


Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\" width=Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\" width=「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumb
UPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito
DEBITO.ORG PODCASTS now on iTunes, subscribe free

Hi Blog.  Sapporo was given a thrill yesterday with a heist at one of it’s biggest department stores, Marui Imai.  Somebody went along an outdoor enclosed corridor connecting two buildings over a road, smashed a window on the building, lifted nearly a million bucks of expensive jewels and watches, then rappelled down the building to the street below for a clean getaway.  Think Pink Panther comes to Japan’s largest small town.

The media called it a “daring” robbery.  But Hokkaido Police, with no other evidence, reportedly said it was so daring it might have been foreigners!  I guess Japanese are too docile and uningenious to be daring.  I think they forgot the World Cup in Sapporo ended in 2002, so it’s a bit odd to keep blaming crime on them.  But again, NJ are a soft and convenient target for blame.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo


TBS News June 25, 2010, courtesy of CJ





20 comments on “TBS: Daring heist of expensive watches in Sapporo. So daring it might have been foreigners!, says Hokkaido Police

  • Can we expect random gaijin watch inspections in downtown Sapporo now? “Excuse me sir, where did you get this watch? Can I see your identification?”

    Don’t suppose you’ve got a flashy gold watch you could strut around with, Debito? It could make a hellva show…

  • I don’t think they had any old typical Joe English Teacher when they mentioned the foreigner group; I think they were suspecting the same high profile international jewelry/watch gang from Hong Kong that’s been responsible for a string of high profile pre-meditated burglaries throughout east Asia, including Ginza in January this year.

    There are few foreigners and Japanese capable of pulling off a stunt like this; the targeting of luxury watches and the complex, Hollywood movie style techniques used to steal them. The drilling through the wall and the choice of merchandise fits he Hong Kong gangs’ M.O. perfectly. The odds of it being Japanese (or Joe Foreigner) copycats is low because the sophistication of the burglary and the connections needed to off-load such high profile merchandise is out of the reach of most amateur smash and grab thieves.

    So yes, they’re blaming foreigners, but not foreigners in general: they have a very specific organized group in mind.

    More details on the Ginza watch heist:


    — If they are that high profile, I wish the media had bothered to give us more details about them. If it’s possibly a specific group, make the report group-specific. Unsatisfactory as it stands.

  • “壁に穴をあける大胆な手口から、警察は、外国人窃盗グループの犯行の可能性もあるとみています。”

    So by this logic Japanese are incapable of making a hole in the wall?


    Six held after Tokyo heist may belong to crime group
    (AFP) – Jan 2, 2010

    HONG KONG — Six people arrested in Hong Kong following a multi-million US dollar jewellery heist in Tokyo may belong to an international crime gang behind similar robberies, a report said Sunday.

    The gang — known for boring through walls to gain access to jewellery stores — usually leaves the country after a robbery, Japanese press reports said.

    Acting on a tip, Hong Kong police said they raided several flats after thieves stole 200 luxury watches and jewellery from a store in Tokyo’s Ginza shopping district between December 31 and January 2.

    Police would not confirm whether the people they arrested last week — three men and three women — are connected to other robberies in Japan.

    “At the moment, the only information we have is that these people are involved in the (latest) robbery in Tokyo,” a police spokesman said.

    But the daily South China Morning Post quoted Superintendent Adrian Kwan of Hong Kong’s Organised Crime and Triad Bureau as saying: “We believe this was not the first time they have stolen in Japan. They chose Japan as the target because they found the shops were easier (to rob).”

    Most of the suspects in previous incidents were of Chinese origin, as were the six detained in the latest three-million US dollar heist.

    Police seized about 180 luxury watches, 100 rings and “a quantity” of cash, the spokesman said, adding that some of the stolen goods had already been sold.

    “The property seized is believed to be connected to the robbery in Japan,” he told AFP.

    The incident follows a robbery in February last year involving the theft of 540,000 US dollars worth of luxury items from a shop also in Tokyo’s Ginza district.

    Both robberies saw the thieves bore through the shops’ walls to gain access to luxury items, Tokyo police have said.

    A group using similar tactics is believed to be responsible for a string of heists in the late 1980s and 1990s, with the syndicate having reappeared in the past several years according to Japanese press reports.

  • @William Taylor

    When you’re translating that Japanese again, translate it to “*THE* 外国人窃盗グループ” {gaikokujin settō gurūpu}, not “*A* 外国人窃盗グループ”; the police are without a doubt specifically referring to one very elite group known to be based overseas and wanted by Interpol.

    (The newspaper article, as Debito points out, could’ve been better written)

    Regarding the use of the phrase “大胆な手口” {daitan na teguchi}: Read up on the gang in the media over the years; the holes they make are relatively cleanly cut, QUIET and FAST (they manage to do it even with guard patrols present!), and they avoid electrical wires, re-bar and support areas (somebody obviously cases either the blueprints or walls in advance and understands building construction). They’re not just randomly pounding through with a sledgehammer. And in the latest Ginza case, they managed to defeat infrared sensors!

    Plus, high end watches have two registered serial numbers, and they attract the attention of customs/duty agents (and you can’t take them through metal detectors on your body at the airport) due to their propensity to be counterfeited and that they’re taxed/tariffed as a luxury item; they’re not easy to move across borders.

    This is the work of serious pros.

    Not saying that Japanese are incapable of this sort of crime. Most CRIMINALS (and law-abiding residents), regardless of nationality, are capable of this level of sophistication. It just so happens that the ONLY active group out there that targets fancy watches and jewelry and has a modus operandi of boring through concrete walls is non-Japanese.

    Despite the prose of the newspaper article, I doubt the average Japanese is going stereotype non-Japanese as being exotic cat burglars (ala Robert De Niro in “The Score” or Jason Statham in “The Bank Job” *).

    * Both good movies, btw. ☺

    — Oh, I’m sure if the media keeps portraying NJ as crafty cat burglars, after some months and years it’ll start turning up as common bar talk whenever a foreigner is present. Sure beats thinking of original topics tailored to individuals.

  • Andrew Smallacombe says:

    So, if it is indeed this syndicate, the question must be asked,
    “What the bloody use is your fingerprinting at immigration?”

  • So, racist border fingerprinting was thwarted at the crime scene by the hi-tech method of wearing gloves, presumably?

  • Don’t tell the authorities that, or next the police will be targeting foreigners wearing watches AND gloves…!

  • William Taylor

    It is just poor journalism that is all too common in Japan. There is not a Japanese language paper in the country that could succeed anywhere but domestically. Not that they need to.

  • Michael Weidner says:

    I actually heard about this second-hand from one of my students. Funnily enough, they didn’t mention anything about foreigners, but likened the robbery to something that Lupin the 3rd would have done in one of his movies.

    As for the media in Japan, it is very clear from the reporting as of late that it is used as a means of propaganda for the masses, eventhough they operate in the guise of unbiased press….

  • Mark Hunter says:

    Michael, interesting observation about the media. I’d be further interested in some examples you’ve noticed recently. I’m not a conspracy theorist, but I’ve often wondered about this here and in other countries. Cheers.

  • A Man In Japan says:

    Well it appears that the police were right. It was a bunch of foreigners, but they should of said something along the lines of it being a known gang, instead of just saying “foreigners”

    Why don’t the media save themselves a headache by being more clear, instead of worrying if everyone is gonna call them racist all the time? If they care about such a thing.

    Am I or am I not making sense here?

  • Michael Weidner says:

    Thanks Mark for commenting on my post. In regards to propaganda, I think my clearest example would be the very biased reporting of anything to do with the Hatoyama Government. Why it came to light for me is simply this: The Aso Government, who said many more controvercial things, was hardly criticized in the Japanese telvision media. Mind you, this is only my opinion. It seemed as if Aso could say anything he wanted without much consequence or flack, but when Hatoyama said anything of minor importance, that it would be blown out of proportion. Recently, a lot of the criticism has been coming that he wasn’t able to implement a lot of the changes that were promissed in the “Manifesto”. A large part of that was because the Jimintou would block all such things in House meetings, and would resort to calling for his resignation at every turn. The media would also do opinion polls with sample sizes that were much too small to be considered unbiased, and were also done by the media body itself and not by an un-biased third party.

    These types of tactics made it really obvious who the media outlet is supporting, and it isn’t the Minshutou. I know that if Canadian Media (where I’m originally from) were to do the same sort of thing that they would be penialized, if not worse.

    Has anyone else noticed this? Am I just crazy?

    — We’re getting off track. Bring it back.

    (But yes, I too have noticed it.)

  • Andrew Smallacombe says:

    Gosh, with the level of sophistication that Eido Inoue describes, it sounds like this group are getting really good intellegence (blueprints/plans, etc.). If I was a cop, I’d suspect that they were getting this kind of assistance from a local. Of course, that would not make a spectacular headline.

  • Just came upon this. Good for the media to mention that this time it was probably nise-gaijin.


    7月7日12時28分配信 読売新聞





  • Meanwhile in the unbiased news departo…


    NPA says foreign crime groups increasingly targeting Japan

    Friday 23rd July, 12:45 PM JST

    TOKYO —

    International criminal organizations are increasingly targeting Japan as members of such groups, the locations where they commit crimes and their victims have become more multinational, the National Police Agency said in its white paper released Friday.

    While members of foreign crime groups have tended to stay in Japan for a short period of time to steal or engage in other criminal activities then flee overseas, such groups are now coordinating with crime syndicates in Japan and repeatedly committing crimes using existing ‘‘criminal infrastructure,’’ according to the annual paper.

    In analyzing the globalization of crime, the document points to underground banks, groups specializing in arranging fake marriages and scrap yards in the suburbs as examples of such infrastructure.

    Police inspected in June a total of more than 400 yards in Japan. One reason was to see whether they were being used as a base for global criminal activities. Some scrap yards were found to have been used to disassemble stolen cars and heavy machinery to export parts.

    The number of foreigners rounded up last year on suspicion of being involved in criminal activities was about 13,200, down roughly 40% from 2004 when the number peaked.

    ‘‘The extent of how much crime has become globalized cannot be grasped through statistics,’’ the paper says, attributing part of the reason to difficulties in solving crimes committed by foreigners—which are more likely to be carried out by multiple culprits than those committed by Japanese.

    To counter the trend, the agency set up in February an office specializing in collecting and analyzing intelligence on crimes committed by foreigners.

    It aims to establish a system in which investigators across the nation would be able to work in an integrated manner to counter crimes committed by foreigners.

    © 2010 Kyodo News.

    and courtesy of expatjapan.net


    English teacher used ‘hangman’-like game at school where student hung himself.

    YACHIYO, Chiba — A foreign English teacher in charge of an English class at Shumei Yachiyo Junior High School is facing criticism after it emerged that the teacher drew pictures of a person being hung (ala the game “Hangman”) when students answered incorrectly in class. In 2008, a student at the school hung himself, but the teacher allegedly continued using the game regardless.

    The parents of the student who killed himself, meanwhile, are angry. “This kind of teaching is a problem,” they have said.

    The testimony of several current and former students led to the discovery. According to the students, since at least 2007, the teacher has used the drawings on the blackboard, adding a line and circle to the picture every time a student can’t answer a question or answers a question incorrectly, gradually forming a complete picture that resembles a person who has been hung.

    According to the parents of the third-year junior high student who hung himself on school grounds in November 2008, in his school notes there were also pictures that looked like hanging victims. At the wake for their son, the parents showed the picture they had found to their son’s friend, who told them that it resembled pictures drawn by the English teacher in class, the parents say.

    One graduate of the school said, “I considered it a part of a game, a harmless black joke. But, now, thinking about the fact that someone killed themselves, I don’t think it was a good idea.”

    Another student said, “It was also going on in 2009 (after the suicide).”

    The reason behind the suicide is unknown, and no causal link has been made between the student’s suicide and the teacher’s drawings or any instruction on the part of the school.

    The parents say that despite the fact that in a study record he submitted to the school, their son wrote, “I had great conversations with people on a suicide website,” they received no contact on the matter from the school. They have filed a suit with the Chiba District Court, seeking around 84 million yen in damages on the basis that the school did not respond appropriately despite the suicide warning sign.

    On the pictures resembling hangman, the parents said, “Even if it was a joke, the fact that it’s being done in a classroom is itself a problem. We were shocked to hear that it continued even after our son’s suicide.”

    The school, communicating via a lawyer, said they wanted to refrain from making any comments on the matter because of the suit.

    According to Professor Kazumi Fujimori of Musashino University, a clinical psychologist and author of the book “Gakko Trauma to Kodomo no Kokoro no Care” (School trauma and care for the minds of children), the use of the pictures could almost be considered a form of “power harassment,” when a person abuses their position of authority to harass others in the workplace.

    “In these times, when there is a trend for even the media to show self-restraint in mentioning suicide, if that kind of instruction was really going on in the classroom, it shows great carelessness. Even if the teacher meant no harm, for the students, who must accept whatever form of teaching is given to them, it is similar to power harassment,” says Fujimori.

    original Japanese version at http://mainichi.jp/select/photo/news/20100722k0000m040166000c.html

    (Mainichi Japan) July 22, 2010

  • re: YACHIYO, Chiba — A foreign English teacher in charge of an English class at Shumei Yachiyo Junior High School is facing criticism after it emerged that the teacher drew pictures of a person being hung (ala the game “Hangman”)

    I dont think they should blame the teacher (unless they explicitly told hinm that the reason that student doesnt attend class anymore is that he hung himself and I wonder if the school authorities did so, given the restraint in discussing topics mentioned above); it is a clear example of culture clash and I dont think the teacher even intended it as a joke, black or otherwise; its just an English game that many teachers, myself included, have used in classrooms to stimulate error correction or competitiveness. If they want an English teacher to teach in a Japanese way, get a Japanese English teacher. Western teachers will teach in the way natural to them, unless told or trained to do otherwise.

    I suppose in the view of Japan’s uniquely high suicide culture this yet another thing which has become taboo in classrooms and will have to be tailored to cultural (over?)sensitivities, but with the exception of very culturally aware long timers here, the average teacher won’t realise or be told this is a cultural faux pas until its too late.

    The Japanese authorities need to provide more cross cultural training-something we ve discussed here on other topics, such as disillusioned overseas students having a hard time at Japanese universities- and considering we re constantly told about Japan’s “unique” culture I m surprised they dont spend more time and money on this. Just scolding the teachers after they inadvertedly make a mistake or cultural faux pas is too late, and stinks of blaming the foreigner again. The reason for the student’s suicide obviously lie elswhere, not with the pictures of an error correction game in his high school English class, which unfortunately coincided with the way he chose to end his own life.

  • According to Professor Kazumi Fujimori of Musashino University, a clinical psychologist and author of the book “Gakko Trauma to Kodomo no Kokoro no Care” (School trauma and care for the minds of children), the use of the pictures could almost be considered a form of “power harassment,” when a person abuses their position of authority to harass others in the workplace.

    Ridiculous, so hangman is a form of harrassment now. But Prof. Fujimori has to keep busy to justify his retainer for another year; I ll pass this onto the several teachers I know working at Musashino University, so they know not to play hangman in their classes.

    By the same “PC taken to extremes” token, could Japanese high schools and universities please not ask western teachers to work at Xmas and Easter, as it is offensive for religious and cultural reasons; doing so cold be a form of “power harrassment” of foreign employees. Touche..

    — Okay, I’m closing this tangent, way off topic. Thanks for your comments.

  • Can this have a separate post then please? I m sure a lot of teachers would like to comment, and be told to avoid using the game “hangman” (or indeed any non Japanese game that seems to mention suicide or death, etc)


    English teacher used ‘hangman’-like game at school where student hung himself.

    — Lesson: Avoid using the game Hangman, especially at places where people actually hang themselves, shall we? It doesn’t have to be discussed here. There are plenty of other forums.

  • Fair enough, but I dont think the teacher was told someone had hung themselves. Just another case of inadequate cultural training.

    But as you say, this topic is indeed now making news on lots of other forums, so ok. Cheers.

    — Given how ghoulish the game is, I think it was a cultural misunderstanding waiting to happen. Dunno why something like this hadn’t happened a lot sooner.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>