21 one-faced monster from Japan (7 photos)

Category: Nostalgia, PEGI 0+
10 June 2024

Monsters can be faceless, two-faced, and even many-faced. But a monster that has 21 of them - is that possible?

For 17 months in the mid-1980s, a criminal (or group of them) nicknamed "The Monster with 21 Faces" terrorized Japan with blackmail letters and poisoned candy.

Kidnapping of Katsuhisa Ezaki

Ezaki Glico Headquarters in Osaka, Japan

It all started on March 18, 1984, when two masked men kidnapped Katsuhisa Ezaki, the CEO of the Ezaki Glico confectionery company. They took him to some warehouse and demanded a ransom of 1 billion yen ($4.2 million). Luckily, Ezaki managed to escape before the ransom was paid.

However, the nightmare now known as the Glico Morinaga Affair was just beginning.

On April 10, 1984, arsonists set fire to several cars parked at Glico's headquarters and vandalized the surrounding area.

Although police were actively investigating Ezaki's kidnapping, authorities initiated their own investigation to find the person or people responsible for the crimes. Which, apparently, were directed against Glico and its employees.

Threats from the “Monster with 21 Faces”

Police officers check Morinaga products on a store shelf on October 26, 1984 in Tokyo, Japan.

On May 10 of the same year, Ezaki Glico received a threatening letter signed by the “Monster with 21 Faces”, which stated that potassium cyanide had been found in packages of Glico chocolates. After discussion, authorities decided to remove all candy from grocery stores throughout Japan. The product withdrawal was disastrous and resulted in more than $20 million in lost profits. More than 400 workers lost their jobs.

The police had almost no leads. However, a grocery store surveillance camera captured a person not associated with the location putting Glico products on the shelves. The guy was wearing a cap and his face was hard to see. Additionally, the footage only showed one person, but police knew there were two people involved in Ezaki's kidnapping. The authorities didn't even know how many people they were looking for.

Threat to the entire country

All of Japan was horrified. Candy sales plummeted. In the summer of 1984, the Monster expanded the scope of his demands, including the Morinaga confectionery company, as well as the food companies Marudai Ham and House Food Corporation, in the list of blackmailers. The police continued to search for evidence, but found themselves at a dead end.

50 million and a train to Kyoto

Threats from the "Monster with 21 Faces" have led to a recall of all Glico candies across Japan, including the famous Pocky candies

That same month, Monster stated that he would stop the blackmail in exchange for 50 million yen. The ransom letter was hidden on a train heading to the city of Kyoto. The presence of a white flag was supposed to be a signal for the transfer of money. The undercover policeman boarded the carriage and waited for the flag to appear.

The policeman never saw him. But he noticed that one of the train passengers was acting strangely. The officer described the man as having an athletic build. The suspect's most notable feature was his "fox-like eyes." Despite attempts to keep him under surveillance, the suspect managed to escape at Kyoto Station. Another ransom attempt in November was also unsuccessful.

Candy Nightmare

Man in a baseball cap caught on CCTV

In October 1984, the Monster sent a letter to the media. In it, he stated that he poisoned 20 packages of Morinaga candies with sodium cyanide and placed them on grocery store shelves. The police turned the entire country upside down and were able to discover more than 21 counterfeit packages of poison. Interestingly, someone put warning labels on the boxes that read “Danger: Contains Toxins.”

In January 1985, based on video footage from the store and a description of a man on a train in Kyoto, the police put him on the wanted list. No one was able to identify the suspect. The investigation continued.

First victim

Photo identikit of a man with fox eyes

In August, the Monster with 21 Faces was responsible, albeit indirectly, for the death of a man. Under public pressure and in the absence of investigation results, the superintendent in charge of the case committed suicide by self-immolation. As soon as news of the suicide became known, the Monster sent his last letter to the media. The message said:

The chief of police died. How stupid of him! We have no friends, no secret hideout... What have the police been doing for the last year and five months? Don't let criminals like us go unpunished... We decided to forget about the torment with food companies. If anyone is blackmailing other product companies, it is not us, but someone copying us. We are the bad guys. Which means we have something to do. It's fun to lead the life of an evil person...

Time passed, but the police were unable to achieve anything. The case was closed. Even if the police caught the 21-Face Monster today, he could not be prosecuted: the statute of limitations has expired in cases of kidnapping and food poisoning. The identity of the criminal or criminal community that kept the entire country in fear remained a mystery.

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