He evaded police and cameras for nearly a decade but time always has a way of catching up with us.

Higashiosaka is relatively small suburb on the eastern side of Osaka city. It’s a rather quiet area where not much happens. Just the occasional 59-year-old spider man, serial arsonist craving curry, or 74-year-old ninja that every community has to deal with every once in a while.

Since 2009, Higashiosaka police have struggled to catch an extremely nimble and elusive cat burglar. All they knew was that he dressed in all black from head to toe and could hop a fence and run away like he was carried by the wind. He was also extremely skilled at avoiding detection earning him the nickname from police: “Heisei Ninja.”

Heisei is the name of the current era under the Japanese convention of naming years after the reigning emperor

From 2009 to July, 2017, the Heisei Ninja was believed to have been responsible for 253 thefts in Higashiosaka for a total estimated damage of 29.4 million yen (US$260,000). However, around spring of this year he began to get increasingly sloppy, appearing on surveillance footage. It was as if he was getting slower.


It was in July when the Heisei Ninja targeted an electronics store and stole about 27,000 yen ($238) in cash after removing the bars on its window and sneaking in. However, thanks to his previous appearances on video, police were able to track him back to his hideout in an abandoned apartment building.

Police raided the hideout and arrested 74-year-old Mitsuaki Tanigawa of Chuo Ward, Osaka. According to police, he traveled into Higashiosaka by train during the daytime to his hideout and then waited until the middle of the night before going out to commit his crimes. After changing his clothes he would avoid the streets and instead travel between small gaps in between buildings to avoid being seen.

Readers of the news were stunned by the appearance of a real ninja…and a 74-year-old one at that.

“If he could just find a better way to capitalize on his nimbleness.”
“Heisei Ninja? Pfft, even now they are just thieves.”
“Wow if I had read that in a manga I would have thought it was ridiculous.”
“Truth is stranger than fiction.”
“It’s kind of poetic that the Heisei Ninja comes to and end just as the Heisei Era does.”
It looks like time had caught up with my colleague. I shall remember to quit while I’m ahead.
“That guy probably would have kicked ass at Sasuke.”
“Japan really is an aging society. Even the ninjas are getting old.”

Many comments said that a talent like his would have gone far in show business, but according to police Tanigawa’s motive was simple, “I did it to live.”

Going by the police estimate Tanigawa’s alleged yearly income from the robberies would equate to 3,675,000 yen ($32,460) a year, tax-free of course and added to whatever welfare or pension he would regularly receive. This is also assuming he didn’t rob anywhere outside of Higashiosaka, but even if that’s the case then he would have only “worked” about 30 days out of the year.

So it would seem that he did make a tidy living, but as with most lives of crime, his ended up badly, likely spending the rest of his life probably behind bars (whether or not they can hold him is a story for another day).

And sadly, with the Heisei Ninja captured, we’ll never seem him run into that sword-fighting convenience store clerk, so that all those cheesy music videos from the ’80s full of Japanese stereotypes would finally become reality.

Source: Sankei News, Hachima Kiko
Images: SoraNews24