Theft occurred after “Boundary of Three Prefectures” recently went viral online.

A specially crafted metal plate marking the junction of three prefectures, Tochigi, Gunma, and Saitama, was discovered missing on 17 August, with police saying they believe the plate was stolen.

According to Tochigi City, a staff member at Tochigi City Hall found the brass plate had gone during a weekly patrol. The plate was last seen by staff during a patrol on 11 August.

The brass plate usually sits on a block of cement marking the centre of the junction. On it is written the words “Boundary of Three Prefectures“, along with the the latitude and longitude of the location and the names of Saitama’s Kazo City, Tochigi’s Tochigi City, and Gunma’s Itakura Town, which meet at this point.

▼ News reports today showed the plate was now missing from the concrete.

As police investigated the suspected theft, commenters noted that the site recently attracted attention on Twitter, when a video showing a person stepping through each gravelled prefectural platform — essentially running through the prefectures in a circular fashion — went viral on Twitter when it was uploaded on 13 August, receiving in excess of 1.7 million views.

Jumping from one prefecture to another is a common practice for tourists at the site, and the site has been set up to allow this, with gravelled platforms and hand-written signs in green marking the prefectures surrounding the boundary marker.

While a number of people hadn’t known about the existence of the site before the viral video, others did, with the site making an appearance in the fourth volume of Japanese manga Asteroid in Love, released in May this year.

While these events sparked discussion online, there’s nothing to indicate that they had any connection to the theft of the plate. And looking back over the years, it looks like the site has always been a peaceful spot, with nothing but a wooden sign to mark the junction back in 2011.

In 2016, the junction became more of a pronounced feature on the landscape, when the cement pillar with the brass plate was installed to mark the exact location of the Boundary of Three Prefectures.

▼ The photo below was taken in 2016.

Following discussions by the two cities and one town involved in the site, and consultations with locals and landowners, the Boundary of Three Prefectures was developed into a tourist site to help promote the region. As the number of visitors increased, the town and two cities purchased the surrounding land from the landowners, creating a paved path to the site, which was completed in 2018.

Nationwide, there are more than 40 borders where three prefectures meet, however the vast majority of them are located at the top of mountains or in the middle of rivers. Boundaries like this one, located on flat land easily accessible to the public, are rare in Japan.

With no reports of animosity towards the site by locals or anyone involved in its development, the reason for the unusual theft remains a mystery. As Japanese police are now on the case, though, it’s only a matter of time before the culprit is found, because authorities here will do everything it takes to catch a thief, even if it involves waiting at a shrine dressed in camo gear.

Source: NHK News via Jin
Top image: Wikipedia/切干大根
Insert images: Wikipedia/切干大根, (1, 2,), Wikipedia/京浜にけWikipedia/Ebiebi2, Wikipedia/切干大根
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