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10 Japanese Police/Crime Cases That Should Be Turned Into a Movie

Updated on March 25, 2015

Some of the best movies in the crime and thriller genre are so engrossing because they are based on real incidents. It’s because it’s easy easy for writers to think up horrific situations but something equally terrible that happened in real life is more interesting and emotionally affecting. In Japan, there are a lot of actual police and crime cases that people would assume to be fiction if they didn’t know any better. Out of all these crime cases, here are ten that deserve to be turned into a movie:

#1. Teigin Bank Robbery (1948)

  • A man stole 160,000 yen from Teigin Bank in Tokyo, leaving twelve people dead in his escape.
  • The man reportedly posed as a representative of the health authorities and gave medication to the bank staff, in order to control a nearby dysentery outbreak. The liquid he provided is laced with cyanide.
  • Well-known Japanese painter Sadamichi Hirasawa was arrested months later, and was sentenced to death. However, there are strong suspicions that he was not the perpetrator since there was no strong evidence against him (even the composite sketch of the perpetrator looked nothing like Hirasawa.)
  • Hirasawa confessed to the crime but later recanted and said that his confession was forced under torture.
  • Justice Ministers that were assigned to the case refused to sign his death warrant due to uncertainties over Hirasawa’s innocence.
  • Sadamichi Hirasawa remained in prison for 33 years, where he wrote his autobiography. He eventually died of natural causes in 1987.

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Sadamichi Hirasawa's arrest
Sadamichi Hirasawa's arrest

Recommended Cast

#2. The assassination of Inejiro Asanuma (1960)

  • Asanuma was a Japanese politician and leader of the Japan Socialist Party, who is criticized by many Japanese at the time due to his strong support for socialism and his vocal support for the Chinese Communist Party.
  • In October 12, 1960, during a televised political debate for the upcoming House of Representatives election, a 17 year old militant nationalist named Otoya Yamaguchi ran to the stage and used a wakizashi (a smaller sword typically worn on one’s side along with a katana) to stab Asanuma in the abdomen, killing him. Yamaguchi tried to attempt a second stab but was apprehended by security.
  • Since TV company NHK was recording the debate, the assassination was caught on camera and seen by millions of Japanese viewers.
  • Yamaguchi was captured at the scene of the crime, but committed suicide while in police custody.

Recommended Cast

Joe Adagiri as Inejiro Asanuma

Kazunari Ninomiya as Otoya Yamaguchi

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#3. 300 Million Yen Robbery (1968)

  • On December 10, 1968, the Nihon Shintaku bank branch in Kokubunji Tokyo were transporting 300 million yen (which amounts to roughly 800,500 US dollars at 1968 exchange rates) via the trunk of the company car.
  • The funds, which are housed in metal boxes, were meant to be bonuses for employees of Toshiba’s Fuchu factory.
  • Their car was stopped in the street next to Tokyo Fuchu prison by a uniformed officer on a police motorcycle, who then informed the bank employees that the house of the branch manager’s house was blown up and that they received a tip that a bomb was planted in the company car as well.
  • When the policeman checked under the hood of the car, smoke started to come out and the four bank employees retreated behind the safety of the prison walls. The policeman then got on the car and left the scene, taking all the money with him.
  • Further investigations revealed that the motorcycle is not a true police motorcycle, but a common one painted white. Several arrests have been made but none were proven guilty, one arrest was even based on false pretenses and the arresting officer accused of abuse of power.
  • As of December 1975, the statute of limitations on the crime has passed without anyone being arrested and proven guilty. As of 1988, the thief has also been cleared of any civil liabilities, which means he can come forward without any fear of legal repercussions. No one has yet dared to come forward.

Site of the 300 million yen robbery
Site of the 300 million yen robbery

Recommended Cast:

Bank Employees:

  • Mukai Osamu
  • Haruma Miura
  • Tomohisa Yamashita

Fujiki Naohito as Fake Policeman


#4. Shinjuku Bus Attack (1980)

  • In 1980, a 34-year old mentally ill man set fire to a bus by throwing a bucket of petrol and a lit newspaper on the vehicle.
  • The resulting fire injured 14 passengers and killed 6 others.
  • The man claimed that he did it out of frustration due to growing up in a poor household filled with violence.
  • The man expected the death penalty, but got a life sentence instead. He committed suicide in 1997.
  • One of the victims, a woman who barely survived after suffering third degree burns to her body, forgave the man and wrote a book about the incident, in which she felt sorry that she couldn’t save the man.

Recommended Cast

Sousuke Takaoka as the 34-year old bomber

Yoko Maki as Female survivor

#5. Concrete-Encased High School Girl Murder Case (1989)

  • On November 25th, 1988, 16 year old Japanese high school student Junko Furuta left school and was last sighted walking to her part time after school job. She never made it home.
  • It was found that she was abducted by four underaged young men; Miyano Hiroshi, Minato Nobuharu, Watanabe Yasushi, and Jo Kamisaku.
  • Junko was kept in a family house of one of the abductors, and for 44 days, was repeatedly raped, tortured, beaten, and forced to eat cockroaches and drink urine. She died alone in New Year’s eve of 1989, after hours of further torture to the point where she reportedly begged her captors to just kill her and get it over with.
  • The abductors placed Junko’s corpse in an oil drum, filled it with concrete and abandoned it on reclaimed land in Tokyo’s Koto Ward.
  • Jo Kamisaku was released in August 1999, but with his ties to the underworld, kept getting into trouble with the law. By 2004, he was arrested for assaulting an acquaintance and sentenced to 7 years of prison.
  • The three other boys’ identities were sealed by the court because they were minors at the time of the incident, but were all tried as adults.

Junko and her captors
Junko and her captors

Recommended Cast:

Tatsuya Fujiwara as Junko Furuta

Yuya Yagira as Miyano Hiroshi

Masahiro Usui as Minato Nobuharu

Hideaki Takizawa as Furukawa Yuki as Watanabe Yasushi

Jo Kamisaku.

#6. Gangland Slaying of Policemen in Okinawa (1990)

  • Two gangsters, Hideo Zamami and Takeo Matayoshi, gunned down two police officers in Okinawa along with 5 other bystanders (one of which is a high school boy.)
  • The shooting incident occurred because Zamami and Matayoshi mistook the police officers for rival gangsters.
  • Zamami has been arrested and sentenced to life imprisonment (even though he denied the accusations and claimed that he was a mere scapegoat.)
  • Matayoshi has gone into hiding and was never arrested.

Recommended Cast:

Hideaki Takizawa as Hideo Zamami

Mizushima Hiro as Takeo Matayoshi

#7. Murder of Masaru Takumi (1997)

  • In 1997, the second in command of Yamaguchi-gumi (Japan’s largest Yakuza gang), Masaru Takumi, was gunned down in a coffee shop on the fourth floor of the Oriental Hotel in Kobe.
  • The perpetrators were gangsters Kouji Ishihara, Nakaho Kiyohara, and Toriyabara Kiyoteru, all members of Nakano-kai, which is a splinter group of the Yamaguchi-gumi and a rival gang.
  • An innocent bystander was killed in the attack as well, and the inquest that followed eventually led to the downfall of the Nakano-kai.

Recommended Cast:

Sota Fukushi as Masaru Takumi

Ryo Yoshizawa as Kouji Ishihara

Jesse Lewis as Nakaho Kiyohara

Okada Masaki as Toriyabara Kiyoteru

Joji Obara
Joji Obara

#8. Roppongi Hostess Murders

  • In 2000, the dismembered body of British hostess Lucie Blackman was discovered, with prominent Osaka businessman Joji Obara soon arrested and charged with the murder.
  • Obara was also charged with the murder of Australian hostess Carita Ridgeway and sexual assault of six other women.
  • Lack of evidence prevented Obara from being found guilty of murdering Lucie Blackman, but he was convicted of the other crimes.

Recommended Cast:

Ryo Kase as Joji Obara

Masanobu Ando as Lucie Blackman

Yusuke Iseya as Carita Ridgeway

#9. Sasebo Slashing Incident (2004)

  • 12-year-old elementary student Satomi Mitarai was killed by a classmate using a box cutter.
  • The identity of the suspect was not revealed because she was a minor, but a Fuji TV report on the incident accidentally revealed the suspect’s name as Natsumi Tsuji (the station shows some of the suspect’s drawings, which she signed with her name.)
  • Natsumi Tsuji confessed to the killings, and revealed that she did it because Mitarai left disparaging comments about her appearance on her website.
  • The suspect became the subject of an online meme called “Nevada Tan,” as her published picture shows her wearing a Nevada sweatshirt.
  • Tsuji should have been released in 2013 at age 20, which is the legal age in Japan for being recognized as an adult.

The photo of Natsumi Tsuji
The photo of Natsumi Tsuji

Recommended Cast:

Kyoko Fukada as Natsumi Tsuji

Yuriko Yoshitaka as Satomi Mitarai

Tetsuya Shiroo
Tetsuya Shiroo

#10. Assassination of Mayor Iccho Itoh (2007)

  • Then-Nagasaki mayor Iccho Itoh was shot twice in the back while campaigning for re-election on what would have been his fourth term. The incident occurred outside of the Nagasaki train station.
  • The perpetrator was Tetsuya Shiroo, who is a senior member of the Yamaguchi-gumi yakuza organization.
  • The motive was allegedly personal, as Shiroo held a grudge when he clashed with Nagasaki city officials in 2003when he drove his car into a hole at a construction site. It is also reported that he is holding a grudge over his construction company not getting any contracts from the local government.
  • The Yamaguchi-gumi leadership denied authorizing the killing, and Shiroo’s own gang, the Sushin-kai, voluntarily disbanded after the incident.

Recommended Cast:

Shun Oguri as Iccho Itoh

Tadanobu Asano as Tetsuya Shiroo

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