Thirty-year-old Junya Hida has been getting a lot of negative publicity recently. (Mostly well deserved, unfortunately.) On Aug 12, after kicking his way through a plexiglass barrier in the visiting room of the Tondabayashi police station in east Osaka Prefecture, he escaped and went on a crime spree and has yet to be returned to confinement.
"After Hida's lawyer left the premises, about an hour and a half elapsed before anyone at the police station noticed he was missing," crime journalist and former policeman Taihei Ogawa tells Asahi Geino (Sept 13). "From that point, it probably took the cops another couple of hours to get their act together and go after him. One of the few cops there who knew his face was on duty and couldn't join the hunt for him, so he had plenty of time to make his getaway."
While the cops dithered, Hida made his way to his family's home and, stealing a minibike, rode to some neighboring towns. Over the next several days he stole money by riding up behind women on bicycles and snatching their purses.
The good citizens of Osaka felt so terrorized, communities began circulating flyers warning people to be on the alert.
Meanwhile, the police launched a dragnet, going door to door to ask residents and shopkeepers if they hadn't seen the suspect.
"From his criminal record, it appears that Hida had targeted women in their 20s or younger for sexual assault and robbery," an Osaka resident told the reporter. "When young women in my office saw his face on the news reports, their complexions turned pale. To be safe, I also advised them not to go anywhere by themselves."
Around Aug 25, an Osaka construction firm announced via an SNS that it would offer a magnanimous reward of 3 million yen for information leading to Hida's apprehension.
Asahi Geino shows a reproduction of the SNS post offering the reward, with the company's telephone number.
When a reporter telephoned to the company, a staff member explained that the company's president was from Hirano and Ikuno wards of Osaka. "As he was horrified by Hida's lawless behavior, he was moved to offer the reward in the spirit of wanting to show cooperation with the police," the employee explained.
The generous offer of 3 million yen was also enough to attract the attention of the local yakuza and get them to mobilize and search for Hida.
"A lot of yakuza depend on the Line chat application," explained one gang member. "And we communicate not only with members of our own organization, but with those of rival groups as well. So these days that's how things get done.
"For example, if we spot some guy defrauding an underground casino, we'll circulate a picture of his face taken by a security camera and circulate it to other gangs, offering a reward if they can track him down."
An unnamed journalist who covers Japan's underground syndicates tells the reporter the lure of money is likely to motivate lots of gangsters to start hunting for Hida.
"Since they're sure the guy offering the reward will pay up, you can expect quite a few people to be on the lookout," he said.
Yakuza can be especially useful because they have access to the kinds of places where Hida would be likely to go to ground, such as underground casinos or sex businesses, where the police don't have informers. That also extends to hangouts of the han-gure (apprentice gangsters), which are the kinds of places where fugitives are likely to hide.
"Hida is supposed to be good at disguises, but unless he's really good he's unlikely to pull the wool over a yakuza's eyes," said the aforementioned journalist.
Hida's whereabouts remain unknown. He is believed to have been spotted over an area ranging from Habikino City, southeast of Osaka, to Amagasaki City in Hyogo Prefecture. Osaka prefectural police have expanded their dragnet and have been poring over footage from security cameras hoping for a breakthrough.
"If they want to grab him before he commits more crimes, they might need to change the way they conduct their dragnets," the aforementioned Ogawa remarked.
But as of now, it's a race between the police and bounty hunters with missing digits.© Japan Today