If you enjoy the Japanese confection Pocky as my BFF Patricia does you might want to know about an incident in 1984-85 where the Monster with 21 Faces threatened Pocky, kidnapped an CEO, threatened another company’s confectioneries, rejoiced in the suicide of a policeman, and actually got ransoms. Apparently two faces of monster were seen then dubbed Video Tape Man and Fox Eyed Man. Honestly the further you go into the stories the far-out it seems. But in the end it’s a true crime very similar to our unsolved Tylenol Murders in the US. If you want to know how the Monster did all of this keep reading?
I’ll take this case in a timeline manner. There aren’t many off shoots of it like some of the other topics I tried to tell. First off the name Monster with 21 Faces (or other various translations) comes from a villain in a detective novel series by Edogawa Rampo. So in English it would be like a corporate blackmailer taking the name Q from Start Trek the Next Generation or Moriarty from Sherlock Holmes. So it all started…
18 March 1984 at 9 pm when someone broke into the home of the Gilco Candy’s CEO’s mother’s home and tied her up. She wasn’t the target of the crime but rather they wanted keys to her son Kathushia Ezaki’s, the CEO, home. Once they had secured that they left the woman unharmed. Shaken up I’m sure but unharmed physically.
They used the key to storm the house. Ezaki was upstairs as the men stormed in tying up his wife and daughter. The wife thinking this was a traditional home invasion offered them money. They weren’t interested. They searched the home and found Ezaki upstairs in the bathroom trying to keep his other children quiet. He was told cooperate or he would be killed in front of his children.
Ezaki was taken and held hostage in a warehouse. Well as hostage as one can be put in a warehouse unguarded and not restrained.
21 March 1984 Ezaki finally figured out no one was watching him, no one was guarding him and the doors were not secured. So he ‘escaped’ to find himself in Ibaraki City, Osaka.
10 April 1984 Vehicles in Glico Headquarters parking lot are firebombed.
16 April 1984 A threatening letter addressed to Gilco and with a container of hydrochloric acid. (I could not find how or where the letter was found or what it said.)
10 May 1984 A letter addressed to the company was received threatening to poison their candy with potassium cyanide then put them back on the shelves. The notes were sent to media and police. They were typed in hiragana (Japanese syllabary) the phrases were Osaka dialect.
With their President and his mother’s experience along with the firebombing of the cars – Glico took this seriously. They removed ALL their products from the shelves resulting in a $21 million dollar loss and 450 people being laid off until the pipeline could be secured and filled with known safe candy.
May 1984 after threatening note before the products were removed (about 10 or 11 of May) a man wearing a Yomiuri Giants cap (Japanese baseball team) was recorded putting candy ON the shelves. He is known as the Video Tape Man. His image was published widely. No public statements were made as to if Glico found any contaminated products.
May – June 1984 More notes from the Monster were sent to the media and authorities mocking the police. The phrasings were juvenile, an example:
“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?” 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 Panwriter. The plastic container used was a piece of street garbage. Monster with 21 faces”
26 June 1984 The Monster sent letters to the Japanese media proclaiming “We forgive Glico!” and ceased their harassment of the company.
28 June 1984 A ransom was to be paid by House Foods another company who received letters from the Monster. A police officer posed as an employee delivering the ransom as instructed. A tall well built athletic man with short permed hair and fox eyes picked up the ransom. Despite being tailed by many police through various trains he was able to ditch them. A composite of the man was released to the public but he was never positively identified.
October 1984 The Monster turned their faces to another candy company Morinaga a chocolate company since 1899 in Japan. They sent letters again to the media and police addressed to “Moms of the Nation” and threatened to poison Morinaga candies with sodium cyanide (different but does the same things to the body).
The candy was pulled from the shelves. Police found 12 packages contaminated with lethal doses in Angel Pies and Choco Balls. The contaminated items had “Danger Contains Toxins” stickers on them.
Feb 1985 The police found 9 more Morinaga products contaminated bringing the total to 21 – one for each face of the Monster. I could not find if these were the results of tests on ones removed in October 1984 or fresh ones off the shelves. Also didn’t find if it was also in the same products as the previous 12. It is also not clear if they too bore the warning stickers.
August 1985 Police Superintendent Yamamoto of Shiga Prefecture Police committed suicide by self-immolation due to shame of not solving the case. It was an honor suicide by Japanese culture.
12 August 1985 The last letter from the Monster was received by the media. It mocked Yamamoto’s death and announce they were bored of harassing food companies.
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
June 1995 The statue of limitations on the Ezaki kidnapping ran out. No one was ever charged with the crime.
February 2000 The statue of limitations on attempted poisoning ran out.
So ended the Monster with 21 Faces in Japan. Now the question was who was it and why?There aren’t many theories as to who. The why seems always for the money. Ransoms of great amounts were paid by these companies and there may have been more than the three we know about (Glico, Home Foods, and Morinaga) All we know of Home Foods is their ransom drop ended in a chase of the Fox-Eyed man. How many corporations were contacted and just paid, if any?
It is a coincidence the harassment stopped as soon as someone was really killed? Did it get too’real’ for them? Or was it the mob-war that broke out that put a stop it as they had to secure their territory?
Okay first theory – Ezaki did it himself to harass his competitors. This theory goes he wasn’t held in the unguarded unlocked warehouse he owned but stayed there. He did lose 21 million in the recall that as far as we know had no poisoned candy like Morinaga’s did. Did he recoup his losses in the paid blackmails and made his candy look safer than the others by his very public recall?
I don’t buy this in the end it was Glico that looked worse with the car bombings, threats and kidnapping. His mother, wife and children were severely traumatized. The risk of totally destroying his company was very real. The risk of killing someone with car bombs, poisoning Morinaga’s candy (even with stickers).
Next is it was Manga fans from Osaka. This comes from the tone of the notes being juvenile and using Osaka phrasing. Some of the ransom drops and amounts proposed reflected tropes in the Manga comics. So let’s say some 20 somethings did it to get money. They didn’t hurt Ezaki and just left him in the warehouse (he stayed a prisoner due to his own mind less there?) They made sure the bombs only destroyed cars, they labelled contaminated products. They only wanted money. Then when someone died they stopped.
Stranger things have happened but they would have to be very sophisticated to do it all. Maybe a group of disgruntled food employees? Yeah I’d buy that more than bored kids. But who knows? I won’t rule it out but it’s way down my list.
Aum Shinrikyo did it to raise money. This the religious cult that did the 20 March 1995 sarin gas attack on Toyko subway system that killed 12 and caused over 5000 to be injured. There is also the thought they set off a nuclear device on their property, Banjawarn Station, in the Australian outback on 28 May 1993 when a seismic event was detected there. In 1989 in Japan they killed Tsutsumi Sakamoto and his wife and child. He was an anti-cult lawyer that was suing them at the time. I mean labs to make sarin. Buying 999,986 acres of the Australian outback to play with uranium costs money. They are still active but much smaller group. They have been investigated thoroughly in Japan and Russia (who is doing a crack down on them as I type this). It was then the 1989 murders were unveiled but nothing on the Monster was found. However there are still 11 people from the group on Interpol’s most wanted database. One is known to have gone into North Korea. The question is if it was them why would they label the contaminated candy? Why would they stop a profitable operation?
Finally some member or members of an Yazuka family. The Yazuka are organized crime families in Japan. Extortion is one of their specialties. They also enjoy mocking the police. The end came as a large war between families broke out in Japan.
The crimes are unsolved and now under Japanese law unprosecutable. So the ponder of who did it is an academic exercise. My money is on the Yazuka first with Aum Shinrikyo coming in a close second.